The United Network for Organ Sharing which oversees the U.S. organ transplant system often fails to detect or fix problems at the hospitals that it is assigned to supervise according to the Los Angeles Times on Sunday.
According to the newspaper when it does act, its findings are usually kept a secret leaving patients and their families unaware of potential risks, such as including excessive death rates.
This nonprofit agency has been given the contract since 1986 by the federal government to oversee the transplant system. Although the organization has reportedly considered revoking the 'good standing' of at least 15 transplant centers since 2000 it has followed through just once, when certification was revoked in March for St. Vincent Medical Center in a Los Angeles.
Officials at the network have not given any comment. However executive director Walter Graham said that the problems were 'hurting public trust' and the agency hopes to make changes.
The report alleged that the network has never recommended closing a transplant program and has been reluctant to censure hospitals.
Dr. Mark Fox, former chairman of the group's ethics committee said, 'It seems like (the network) is often a day late and a dollar short.'
The incident where St. Vincent Medical Center made arrangements for a liver transplant candidate to jump ahead of dozens of others in line for an organ was called to attention in the report.
Quoting another instance, the newspaper said United Network for Organ Sharing was aware by 2002 of unacceptably high death rates for the kidney transplant program at Sunrise Hospital and Medical Center in Las Vegas, but four years passed before the regulator performed its own inspection.
Besides this the organization demonstrated a failure to investigate health maintenance organization Kaiser Permanente's new kidney program in San Francisco, in spite of the fact that statistics showed twice as many patients had died awaiting transplants as had received them.
An investigation of Kaiser's program was launched only in May, after the Los Angeles Times had detailed the failings.