It is the poor who suffer

It is the poor who suffer

There can be no greater service to humanity than to donate blood to save someone’s life.

Ironically, this noble exercise has in recent times become more of a tainted business, ‘lucrative’ for those preying on the need and helplessness of the people whose wards need just one unit of blood for survival!

A unit of blood which on paper used to cost Rs 850 can now be procured for Rs 1,050 from government blood banks and Rs 1,450 from private blood banks.

But the concern here is there is no regularisation on the processing charge of blood sold by private banks. So, one unit of blood reportedly is being sold at Rs 5,000 and above in the City, says a senior Ministry of Health and Family Welfare official, requesting anonymity.

Surprisingly, the government seems to be supportive of these private blood banks which are charging unreasonable amounts from the needy for blood units.

In its 24th governing body meeting held in January, The National Transfusion Council, under National AIDS Control Organisation, approved revised processing charges for blood and blood components. 

For government blood banks, the processing charge for whole blood is Rs 1,050 per unit, packed red cells Rs 1,050 per unit, fresh frozen plasma Rs 300 per unit and platelet concentrate Rs 300 per unit.

On the other hand, private blood banks are authorised to charge a minimum of Rs 1,450 per unit for whole blood and packed red cells,and Rs 400 for fresh frozen plasma and platelet concentrate.

Ironically, there is no regularisation in the processing charge, as new guidelines, on the contrary, give a free hand to private blood banks to raise the processing charges. The guidelines clearly read ‘Processing charges would differ in private sector in view of different rates of kits and consumables offered to private blood banks by the vendors’. 

Even permission to charge extra amount for specialised tests has been granted. The committee, however, has worked out and revised maximum charges for the specialised tests for whole blood unit.

Like Nucleic Acid Amplification Test (NAT) to detect HIV and HCV virus in donors’ blood is now Rs 1,200. Other tests from Chemiluminscence to antibody screening and ELISA will add an extra amount from Rs 50 to 500.
“Even if you add the charges of all the extra tests, leaving cost of specialised tests which are component-specific, to the cost of one unit of donated blood it would not cost more than Rs 3,500. But private blood banks are charging at least Rs 5,000 per blood unit which has become a matter of concern,” says the source in the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare.
The transfusion council has given unrestricted power to blood banks and they can add the cost, skilled manpower, items and other ancillary requirements to that one unit
of blood.
Dr RN Makroo, Director, Transfusion Medicine, Apollo Hospital claims it is the quality of blood which adds to the cost. Clarifying his point, he gives an example of the bag used to collect blood, “The cost of bag can vary from Rs 50 to Rs 2,500.

So, it depends upon the blood bank as to what kind of bag they want to use. Charges also depend on how accurately the donor’s blood is being tested.

Though the government has fixed the charges, techniques used to test blood vary from one blood bank to the other.

All of it adds to the overall charge but it is the quality that
should matter.”

Dr Ratika Setia, head and consultant, Transfusion Medicine, BLK Super Speciality Hospital, which also charges Rs 4, 800 for one unit of blood, accepts that there is no uniformity in standard testing methods.

Explaining about the tests that check the window period (a period between the onset of the infection and the appearance of the detectable antibodies to the virus) of the donated blood, she says, “It is important to study the molecular activities going on during the window period.

If we use conventional techniques, as used by government blood banks, then we can only study activities after four to six weeks the blood has been donated. Hence, we use modern technology to trace the infection within 11 days.”  

Not surprising then, it is the poor patient who picks up the tab!