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Sale of plasma under scanner

Bhubaneswar/Cuttack, May 4: The state health department’s decision to sell blood plasma to a private company at a time when the state is facing acute shortage of blood, has triggered a controversy forcing the government to order an inquiry.

At present, there is an annual shortage of more than 40,000 units of blood in the state.

“As a blood donor, I feel this decision should be revoked as poor patients will suffer,” said Prakash Rao, a social activist.

The decision to sell the blood plasma was taken at a joint meeting of the State Blood Transfusion Council and Odisha State AIDS Control Society (OSACS) held on April 29.

The Central Red Cross Blood Bank at Cuttack already sold nearly 200 units to a private company last month. “The State Transfusion Council decided to sell plasma from surplus blood units to the private company, which aims at making the blood banks self-sufficient,” said blood bank director Benudhar Satpathy.

Sources said plasma was sold to the company at Rs 1,000 a litre.

After the reports poured in, health minister Damodar Rout today said: “I did not know about this decision. I don’t understand under which circumstances they took this decision. Since we collect blood in the form of donations, it is unethical to sell any products of blood.”

Rout said he had sought a detailed report from the OSACS and the State Transfusion Council within three days. Sources said the minister wanted to know whether they had intimated the government earlier that they have surplus blood plasma and that they didn’t have adequate infrastructure to preserve it.

Health secretary P.K. Mohapatra said: “People have the wrong idea that we are selling blood. The blood plasma will be of no use after two years. We have decided to sell the surplus blood plasma available with blood banks. Blood plasma worth crores of rupees has earlier been destroyed.”

Officials said the decision to sell surplus blood units would helpful in checking wastage of blood and ensuring blood supply to patients without any donor.

According to norms, blood plasma can be stored for one year at 45C and for two years at 80C. “After that, it will be of no use. We have decided to sell it so that the money can be used to improve the blood banks. We will soon come out with a report on how much money we lost so far,” said Mohapatra.

Sources in the State Blood Transfusion Council said the component facility is available at six places in the state — SCB hospital, VSS hospital, MKCG hospital, Capital Hospital, BMC Hospital and Angul district headquarters hospital.

Three types of components are drawn from a single unit of blood —platelets, red pack cells and plasma. Of the three units, there is huge demand for platelets and red packed cells while the clinical demand for plasma is mainly for treating burn victims.

“The decision to sell plasma is being undertaken on a trial basis, which will be further reviewed in subsequent phases,” an official said.

However, the officials of the Central Red Cross Blood Bank said the move would certainly be helpful in providing disease-specific blood and components to the patients across the state. The Cuttack district administration has ordered an inquiry into the sale of blood.

The health secretary further said once the model code of conduct was withdrawn, a fresh tender would be invited for the purpose.

The total blood collection at Central Red Cross Blood bank is estimated at 44,000 units. A total of 20,000 units are collected by SCB hospital, 20,000 units by Capital Hospital, 30,000 units by MKCG and 20,000 by VSS. Of the total blood requirement of 3.5 lakh units a year, nearly 3.07 lakh are collected by various blood banks in the state.

Official sources said the state government had decided to establish component facility at three more places — Balasore, Keonjhar and Koraput — to provide disease specific blood components to the patients.