In a bid to tighten the noose around private blood banks, the state health ministry announced a fresh set of norms on Friday. The key among them are enforcement of a cap on processing fee per unit of blood supplied for transfusion, set at Rs 850, and a bar on hospitals from asking patients to organise replacement donors.
The per unit (350 ml) fee had been fixed vide a 2008 circular issued by the National Blood Transfusion Council but hospitals and nursing homes continue to charge arbitrary rates as high as Rs 5,000 per unit. "Strict action will be taken against hospitals overcharging patients," said PR Uttarwar, joint commissioner, Food and Drug Administration, which issues licenses to blood banks.
The government has also directed hospitals to stop asking patients to replace blood given to them by arranging blood donors. "According to the national blood policy, blood banks in hospitals cannot ask patients to organise replacement donors. In case of a shortage, they have to approach blood banks recognised by State Blood Transfusion Council (SBTC)," said Bhushan Gagrani, health secretary.
The decisions were taken at a meeting of SBTC officials and blood bank representatives, held to regulate blood banks in the state. Acquiescing to the demand of blood banks, Gagrani said the government will write to the Centre to raise the processing fee as the present one was fixed three years ago.
The government has also decided to increase the number of plasma separating units in the state to reduce wastage of blood. While blood plasma can be stored for a year, whole blood has a shelf life of only 35 days.
"We get about 10 lakh units of blood a year. But a lot of it is wasted because we do not have adequate plasma units. We plan to set up one such unit in each district," said Gagrani.
Moreover, from now on, only SBTC recognised blood banks, and those in municipal hospitals, can hold blood donation camps. "We will also not allow any stand-alone blood banks. They have to be a part of hospitals," said Gagrani.
The measures have been welcomed by some hospitals. "They will benefit patients as it will lead to some control over the quality and pricing of blood units," said Dr S Mohanty, medical director, Jaslok Hospital.