Taking note of multiple complaints from thalassemia patients who are being refused free blood supply by blood banks, the state government on Thursday issued a directive to inquire against such banks and make it a punishable offence.
Blood banks, which have stock but refuse to provide it to patients of blood disorder like thalassemia, sickle cell, haemophilia, will be fined Rs 1,000. If blood banks charge patients, they will have to refund thrice the amount. Any blood bank found overcharging for processing service will have to refund five times the charge to State Blood Transfusion Council (SBTC).
Maharashtra is reeling under a severe shortage of blood with donation camps running dry due to pandemic fear. So far this year 2,037 blood donation camps have been held and 1.77 lakh units have been collected across Maharashtra. This is a steep fall from 3.06 units collected last year through 3,313 camps. Corporate offices, colleges which were the main source of donation remain shut.
On Friday a meeting of 20 major blood donation camp organisers and blood banks was held with state officials to discuss ways to encourage blood donation. “We have asked blood banks to reach out to residential societies and counsel people. Residents are scared of infection, but we are ensuring hygienic and safe donation procedure so that the fear of Covid is eliminated,” said Dr Arun Thorat, in charge of SBTC.
A day after the government issued the GR, however, thalassemia patients continued to face issues on ground. Ravi Dixit (11) and Meera Balram (11), who require blood every fortnight, were both refused blood in LTMG blood bank and had to scout for two donors.
“The usual donors who step forward were also not available. Finally, we went to Anvishka blood bank. But they only agreed to give blood if we provided a replacement. We again had to look for replacement donors,” said Sheetal Dixit, Ravi’s mother.
Meera’s father Balram, a Dombivali resident, said the situation is so bad that several blood banks in Dombivali have refused to provide blood to even thalassemia patients. “That is why I had to come to LTMG bank for transfusion,” he said.
An official from Anvishka bank said from 120-150 units, his stock has depleted to 60-70 units during the pandemic.
Several organisations like Tarun Mitra Mandal, Lal Baug and Think Foundation have decided to hold camps on December 12 to mark NCP chief Sharad Pawar’s birthday. “We are appealing to people to step forward. There is a severe shortage for emergency blood requirement..,” said Dr Hitesh Pagare, from JJ blood bank.
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