Delhi to set up plasma bank, launch helplineUpdated: Jun 30, 2020 00:04 IST
Delhi will set up a plasma bank to pool in blood rich in virus-fighting antibodies, chief minister Arvind Kejriwal said on Monday, in a plan to help critically ill patients of the coronavirus disease (Covid-19) have better access to one of the most effective treatment options yet.
Therapy through transfusion of plasma – a component of the blood – has been on in the national capital since April 22, weeks after global studies showed that the technique drastically improved the chances of recovery among people with severe Covid-19 illness.
“There is high demand for plasma therapy among people. Around two months ago, we were one of the first states to start plasma therapy trials... results are good. It has been observed that plasma therapy helps stabilise respiratory rate of moderate to severe patients and it can save lives,” said Kejriwal at a press briefing over video on Monday.
“But it cannot save patients with multi-organ failures, those in extremely severe conditions,” he added.
The plasma bank will operate largely like a blood bank and will be set up at the Institute of Liver and Biliary Sciences (ILBS) Hospital in south Delhi. Patients in government and private hospitals in Delhi can approach it with a recommendation from a doctor, the CM said.
“This will probably be the first plasma bank of the country. Any Covid-19-cured individual would be able to donate plasma and active Covid-19 patients admitted in both private and government hospitals would be able to avail it. But only a doctor can recommend plasma therapy and it cannot be randomly sought by any Covid-19 patient. After recommendation, the concerned hospital has to inform ILBS for plasma,” he said.
Tracing its roots to the early 20th century, plasma therapy works on a simple premise: blood from a patient who has beaten Covid-19 is transfused into someone still struggling with the infection. This effectively amounts to rushing a reinforcement of virus antibodies.
The first indication of plasma therapy being effective against Covid-19 came in a scientific paper published on April 6 by Chinese experts who discovered rapid recovery among 10 patients in their trial. Within 1-3 days of being given plasma, these people were free of symptoms of the disease .
According to Kejriwal, plasma therapy trials in Delhi have helped improve health condition of 34 out of 35 Covid-19 patients in government hospitals and 46 out of 49 patients in private hospitals.
The chief minister said that the government is working on the modalities of the plasma bank, which will be finalised in another two days. “This will streamline the plasma therapy system in the city. The arrangement is in ILBS Hospital because it is not a Covid-19 hospital. The donors are safe and they will not be infected again. The government will also be paying for their conveyance,” said Kejriwal, urging more Covid-19 recovered patients to donate blood in coming days.
Blood and plasma donations require specific matching of blood groups, which often makes sourcing of plasma difficult, especially at short notice.
“Availability of plasma is a big issue. So far, both private and government hospitals that got approval for plasma therapy have maintained their own plasma banks. A centralised system will streamline the process and enable better monitoring, better data management and grievance redressal,” said Jugal Kishore, head of community medicine at Safdarjung Hospital.
“However, having one such bank for the whole city can put excessive stress on the concerned hospital. The government, in the coming days, should create a network of plasma banks by setting up more facilities in accordance with locations of Covid-19-dedicated hospitals in the city,” he added.
Kejriwal said the government will soon set up a helpline through which potential plasma donors can come forward and health officials can begin reaching out to recovered people.
Last week, the chief minister said that plasma therapy in Lok Nayak Hospital helped reduce the death rate among Covid-19 patients by around 50%.
Data shared by the government on Sunday showed that the government hospital recorded 51 deaths in the week between ending June 26, compared to 100 deaths between June 6 and 12. Last week, the Delhi government got the Centre’s approval for 200 more plasma therapy trials, following which it also started them at the Rajiv Gandhi Super Speciality Hospital.
On Monday evening, several Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) functionaries who are recovering from Covid-19, including Delhi health minister Satyendra Jain, pledged to become plasma donors.
The chief minister, in the video briefing, also announced a compensation of ~1 crore for the family of Dr Asheem Gupta, a doctor in the Lok Nayak Hospital who died of Covid-19 on Sunday.