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Blood banks run out of Hepatitis-B kits

Siliguri/Alipurduar, June 19: The subdivisional hospitals in Kurseong, Kalimpong and Alipurduar have been hit by an acute shortage of test kits for Hepatitis-B in the last two months.

The shortage is attributed to the halt in the supply of the kits by the Regional Blood Transfusion Centre at North Bengal Medical College and Hospital in Siliguri.

“The guidelines of the National Aids Control Organisation (NACO) make it mandatory for blood banks to conduct tests for HIV, Hepatitis-B, Hepatitis C, malaria and venereal diseases on each unit of blood collected for transfusion. However, the Alipurduar subdivisional hospital has not received any kit from the RBTC to test Hepatitis B in the past two months. We could not give blood to patients in the past one week as the test cannot be conducted,’ said Swapan Sarkar, the chief medical officer of health of Jalpaiguri.

The RBTC authorities admitted the problem and said they were being provided with less number of kits for Hepatitis B from the State Blood Transfusion Centre in Calcutta.

“We are aware of the problems faced by the blood banks. Even the RBTC is ill-equipped now. The crisis has occurred because the SBTC supplies us with very less Hepatitis B kits. The Calcutta centre delivers only 300 kits at a time and they are meant for 12 blood banks in north Bengal. I have informed the SBTC authorities about the crisis and they have agreed to send around 200 kits,” said Mridumoy Das, the RBTC in-charge.

Norms say only kits approved by the NACO could be used for blood tests. The kits supplied by the SBTC are checked by the NACO.

Das said the three subdivisional hospitals had been asked to send blood samples to the RBTC for tests since they did not have enough kits. “There is an alternative method to conduct the tests, but required blood units in bulk. The Eliza machine can be used for all tests but we need blood units in bulk. The tests cannot be conducted by the machine if there are less than 50 blood units,” he said.

The Kurseong and Kalimpong hospitals also admitted the shortage of the kits and said they were left with no other option but to buy kits from the local market — a violation of the NACO norms.

“Sending blood samples to the NBMCH for tests is not a feasible practice. We have bought some kits locally to carry out the tests,” said an official at the blood bank in Kurseong subdivisional hospital.

A source at the blood bank in Kalimpong hospital said: “We are facing the crisis for the past two months. Recently, some kits, though not adequate, has been provided to us by the hospital authorities. We are yet to get fresh supply from the RBTC and are running the bank somehow.”