In 2014, one in every 25 units of blood collected across all banks in the state had to be discarded because it was not put to use during its shelf life. Around 310 blood banks operate in the state.
Donated blood is used during both planned and emergency surgeries. Thalassaemia patients also require frequent blood transfusions throughout their life.
In the city, the blood bank at Bandra’s Asian Heart Institute collected 2,804 units of blood in 2014. of which 11% was discarded after expiry.
“I will have to look into the data,” said Dr Vijay D’silva, director, medical affairs and critical care, adding that the hospital does not have the permission to conduct camps and most donors are walk-ins.
In contrast, Sir JJ Mahanagar Blood Bank collected 33,367 blood units during the same period, of which only 3% was discarded after expiry, according to the SBTC records.
Donated blood can be discarded for three reasons: When it tests positive for any transfusion transmissible infections such as Hepatitis and HIV, if it is not collected properly or if the blood is thrown away once it expires, which is a preventable waste.
To reduce wastage, Dr Abhijit Bopardikar from Mahatma Gandhi Seva Mandir Blood Camp said banks need to share their excess blood with other banks and storage centres.
“It is distressing to know that blood units are wasted because there are occasions of acute shortage. Once a person donates, he cannot do it for the next three months. It would be better if we have regular walk-in-donors instead of collecting large units of blood at one go,” said Bopardikar, adding that it is the moral responsibility of banks to avoid wastage.
Senior doctors working with blood banks in the city blamed large blood donation drives and poor networking between blood banks for the wastage of blood – a perishable life-saving product.
“There are times when we collect blood even when we don’t require it just to please the camp organisers. These camp organisers want to set records,” said a doctor working with a blood bank in Mumbai.
In 2012, the National Aids Control Organisation (NACO) had restricted the number of blood units that can be collected in a single camp to 500 units a day.
Despite that, organisers continue to collect a large number of blood units in a single day to set records and boost egos, said doctors. Owing to the large donation camps, all banks have an excess at the same time and face a shortage at the same time, said experts.
Recently, a major private bank entered the Guinness Book of World Records for collecting large number of blood units in a single day.
This, experts said is not an encouraging trend. “In mega blood camps, large blood collection happens, but in such situations, there is a higher chance that sizeable blood units collected are discarded,” said Dr Neelam Nijera, secretary, Federation of Bombay Blood Banks and bank in-charge of SL Raheja Hospital’s blood bank.
Face to Face
Vinay Shetty, vice-president of Think Foundation
‘Need donations regularly, not suddenly’
Vinay Shetty, is vice-president of Think Foundation, a non-profit that works for the cause of blood donation and Thalassemia patients. Shetty has been conducting camps since he was 20 years old. He organises blood donation drives at various colleges, religious institutes and residential areas. He is a permanent member of the Voluntary Blood Donation Committee of the State Blood Transfusion Council.
Why is blood being wasted even though there is such a dire need for it?
Blood is a perishable item and it’s separated into various components that have a short shelf life. It is known that some amount of platelets will be discarded as its expiry is just five days. What we should worry about are Red Blood Cells, which have an expiry of 35 to 42 days being tossed away after expiry. A person can donate only four times a year. If he donates when it is not needed, we lose a donor for the next three months.
Are mega camps leading to wastage of blood?
The major problem is the collection of blood at large camps. I had complained to the State Blood Transfusion Council against a private bank, which organised blood donation as part of its Corporate Social Responsibility. I think it was corporate social irresponsibility for the bank to hijack the ongoing camps and schedule them on one day to set a record. In fact, we had a huge shortage of platelets after the mega camps organised by Shiv Sena. What we need are people who regularly donate instead of sudden donations.
Often a patient’s relatives are forced to get donors. Are banks not responsible for donors?
Every blood bank has to arrange camps. It is unethical and illegal to ask relatives to get donors. Then people are forced to donate. This is not good as they will hide their medical history, which is critical to stop infected blood from entering into the system.