Anwar Ali has been running from one blood bank to another to find platelets for his son, who has the rare ‘AB negative’ blood group. “The government blood banks do not have blood for this group, while private blood banks have been asking Rs 20,000 for just one unit. I cannot afford so much. All I can do is wait,” said Ali.
With more than 1,800 dengue cases in Delhi and over 203 cases reported in Gurgaon, patients are being forced to spend large sums of money to procure platelets from private blood banks.
Sources said the cost per unit for rare blood groups was going up to Rs 30,000. According to guidelines of the National AIDS Control Organisation (NACO), single donor platelets (SDP) in private blood banks should cost a maximum of Rs 11,000.
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For SDP, platelets are separated, processed and collected from a single donor in a process known as apheresis and all other blood components are returned to the donor. Random donor platelets (RDP), where platelets from multiple donors are used and which contain relatively fewer platelets, should cost Rs 400. A patient with depleting platelets needs one unit of SDP per day, and may need 4-5 units if he is using RDPs.
Dr Vanashree Singh, director of blood banks at Indian Red Cross Society, said, “The advantage with SDP is that you are exposing patients to fewer donors. So the chances of contracting infection is less. The concentration of platelets is also more in SDP. So even with one unit, platelets shoot up very fast.”
According to sources, multi-specialty hospitals in Gurgaon that have their own private blood banks and the infrastructure to store platelets units charge between
Rs 11,000 to Rs 18,000 per unit. They sometimes charge Rs 22,000.
“We have been told about cases where private blood banks charge up to Rs 30,000 for rare blood groups like AB negative, B negative, O negative. All we can do is ask private runners to subsidise the rates for those who cannot afford them,” said a health official.
Sources also said a ‘processing fee’ was being charged for blood groups that are short in supply. “Hospitals spend a lot of money to purchase kits for single blood donors, who donate only platelets. They again spend huge amounts on storage. As a result, the processing fee is bound to increase,” said a source.
Additionally, families of dengue patients are also being asked to bring along a person who has a rare blood group and pay the amount asked by the private bank, making it increasingly difficult for the poor to get it, sources said.
A leading multi-specialty hospital in Gurgaon claims to be selling single blood donor units for Rs 11,000 and random blood donor units for Rs 400.