Since the government started the scheme to provide blood at the doorstep in 2014, rural and tribal districts such as Chandrapur, Bhandara, Sindhudurg, Gadchiroli and Hingoli have accounted for maximum calls in the absence of private blood banks in the region. In three years, the total demand from across the state for blood was 41,664 units. The supply, however, has remained at 80 per cent.
Blood-on-call is Maharashtra health department’s toll-free number (104) to request for blood or blood-component units. Patients can request for or reserve blood and get it delivered from the nearest government-run blood bank by a technician on a motorbike. The cost of a whole unit is Rs 850 while for blood component it is Rs 1,050.
Since 2014, the helpline has received 1.58 lakh calls, of which 1.13 lakh calls were only related to general inquiry. Actual demand for want of blood were 41,664 units. The state government was, however, able to supply only 31,464 units of blood.
“We face a shortage of rare blood groups. All negative blood groups have fewer donors and usually requests are turned down when the stock is unavailable,” an official from the State Blood Transfusion Council (SBTC) said.
Data accessed by The Indian Express shows that AB negative, A negative and O negative suffer a huge deficit. In 2016, the SBTC was unable to deliver AB negative blood in 55 per cent of cases. Similarly, 36 per cent requirement for A negative and 31 per cent of O negative blood group went undelivered by 104 helpline.
In 2016, Maharashtra collected 16.17 lakh blood units, recorded as highest collection in India, through 326 blood banks.
Anaemic patients make the maximum request for blood on the helpline. The Health Management Information System showed that 74 per cent of 21.8 lakh pregnant women in Maharashtra had anaemia which leads to poor haemoglobin.
Sickle cell patients – especially in the tribal regions of Gadchiroli, Palghar and Chandrapur – suffer from massive blood shortage. Since 2014, 3,806 blood unit demand came from Chandrapur, 2,693 from Bhandara, 2,603 from Sindhudurg, 2,262 from Gadchiroli and 2,504 from Hingoli district.
For instance, Bhangarh in Gadchiroli has a significant number of sickle cell patients but no blood bank. Patients have to approach Gadchiroli’’s civil hospital for transfusion. The state also plans to link more hospitals to its blood banks through active awareness campaigns. Currently, 1,247 hospitals in Maharashtra are registered for blood-on-call facility. A patient admitted in any other hospital cannot avail blood-on-call until the hospital registers itself.