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Blood banks skip mandatory tests

Bhubaneswar, Dec. 16: Procuring blood from blood banks might be risky as chances are that tests prescribed by the State Board Transfusion Council (SBTC) are not being carried out. The risk is high as most blood banks in the state do not have the required equipment to conduct the tests.

Norms laid down by the SBTC make it mandatory to conduct tests for HIV, hepatitis C, hepatitis B, malaria and syphilis after collecting blood and before transfusion to patients. But the Comptroller and Auditor General in its report states that these test were not conducted, thus putting the life of patients in danger.

In its surprise checks, the CAG has found that of the 44,292 units of blood collected in emergency cases from 2009 to March 2012, such mandatory test were not carried out on 24,763 units despite availability of ELISA reader and other modern equipment.

Even in normal cases, tests were not conducted on 14,750 units of blood collected from 2009-2012 on the plea of non-availability of equipment. “This indicates that these blood banks were violating the rules in collections, storage and issue of blood which would put the patients facing the risk of low quality blood,” the CAG says in its report.

Similarly, about 84 per cent of blood banks in government, public sector units and private sectors were functioning without valid licences as these were not renewed. Joint inspections by officials of the health and drug departments had not been conducted even once in five years.

The CAG further stated that donor’s safety was compromised and blood was collected from ineligible donors. Data on age, weight and haemoglobin content had not been recorded in the donor’s record.

What’s worse, major blood banks do not have quality assurance managers to exclusively deal with quality parameters.

“The department of transfusion medicine was not established in any of the three government medical colleges of the state. Separate cadres for Blood Transfusion Service were not created,” the report said.

Government sources said that out of the requirement of 3.50 lakh units of blood, the state has been able to collect nearly 3.07 lakh units. “We are hopeful to meet this target this year,” said an official.

There are 82 blood banks across the state, but according to the CAG report, internal audit system was not introduced in these.

“Although specific rules were framed for ensuring the safety of blood donors, a majority of the blood banks verified in audit flouted the rules. Non-compliance of the rules and inadequate monitoring by drug inspectors resulted in several deficiencies endangering the safety of the booth the donor and the patients,” the CAG report said.

Rules are being flouted even though the National Blood Policy talks about setting up adequate number of blood component separation units. Such facilities are required for separation of whole blood into its constituent components – red cells, platelets and plasma for use as and when required.

On the other hand, the CAG found that out of the 82 blood banks in the state, only 11 had blood component separation units. “Due to absence of such facilities, blood components could not be separated from whole blood for use of specific component,” the CAG report stated. Only 14 per cent of the blood banks have blood component separation facility.

Health minister Damodar Rout told The Telegraph: “After I took up charge of the department, a number of steps have been taken to streamline it and the process of blood collection.”

He further said nine blood separation units would be set up across the state. However, the minister feigned ignorance about blood banks running without valid licence.