Despite the initial euphoria about transfer of blood between blood banks, there has been a rather slow start to the scheme in the city. So much so that the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) had to call a meeting and issue stern instructions on sharing blood and prepare a standard operating procedure.
Sanjay Patil, Joint Commissioner, FDA (drugs), told The Indian Express that there had been complaints and grievances from patients about how some hospitals were making it compulsory to take blood from their own blood banks. “I was also appalled that not many turned up for the meeting despite there being 34 blood banks in Pune district,” Patil said.
Now, along with blood banks of big hospitals, Patil has set up a committee to look into the issue of sharing of blood.
The union health ministry had taken a decision in 2014 to allow transfer of blood from one bank to another and each state’s blood transfusion council had issued guidelines that official transfers could be allowed between licensed blood banks.
The aim was to better utilize blood and its components and enhance access to blood products for patients requiring transfusion, especially in case of disease outbreaks like dengue that often lead to scarcity of blood and other components.
However, with big hospitals using state-of-the-art machines for providing safe blood at their blood banks, most are wary of taking blood from other banks run by charitable trusts that do not have automated technology. There have been tremendous advances in technology and blood banks use automation for blood grouping and cross-matching for diseases like HIV, Hepatitis B and C using sophisticated techniques like NAT (Nucleic Acid Testing) and others.
“Am I going to compromise the safety of our patients by taking blood from a bank that does not have the automated facility,” the director of a hospital-based blood bank said on the condition of anonymity.
When contacted, Dr Poornima Rao, senior consultant and in-charge at the blood bank at Sahyadri Hospital, said that after the FDA meeting, a format for sharing blood has been prepared and submitted to both the State Blood Transfusion Council and National AIDS Control Organisation (NACO). The protocol requires the banks to state the tests used for checking safety of blood. “At our hospital, we have enough blood to cater to our patients. However, if the relative of a patient has a donor card from another bank and gets the blood bag, then he/she is directed to the ward,” Rao said.
“Being able to borrow units of blood from one another is welcome but it is a fact that hospitals will not allow blood that has been tested manually or that has not been exposed to high-end tests for their own patients,” said Dr Dileep Wani, chairperson of Jankalyan chain of blood banks and member of the governing body of State Blood Transfusion Council.
Several blood bank directors sought to know as to who would shoulder the responsibility in the event of a problem related to the blood transfusion.
“It is a rare occurrence, but which blood bank will be responsible if a patient contracts HIV?” Wani said, adding that these issues needed to be sorted out.
At the SBTC, authorities said that while Maharashtra may have reacted slowly to the scheme, there was a positive response from other states. In Maharashtra, each district has a blood bank and there are a total of 314 such banks. The inter bank blood transfer, however, is welcomed in Bihar that has just 72 blood banks, Chhattisgarh (with 42 blood banks) and Kashmir, which has just 23 blood banks.