The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Panchayat polls suck blood banks dry

Urgently required blood for a five-year-old, but from where'

The panchayat polls may be held miles away from Calcutta, but it is taking its toll on the city’s blood banks. Most of the city-based haematological organisations and blood banks are reeling under an acute blood crisis since the bulk suppliers — para clubs in districts — are busy with the elections and have no time for organising blood donation camps.

The situation has reached such an alarming stage that a city-based organisation formed by parents of 331 thalassaemia patients — Thalassaemia Guardians’ Association (TGA) — has cut down blood transfusion from 10 times a day to five. Even parents had to donate blood so that the children are able to undergo transfusion.

TGA organises seven camps a week, but in the past four weeks the figure has come down to two. “Most clubs which help us by organising camps asked us to come back after May 25, once the panchayat elections are over,” says TGA secretary Ajit Mishra.

Director of health services Prabhakar Chatterjee admitted the acute scarcity. “At the moment we are short by at least 35,000 bottles. We are going to step up our collections after the panchayat polls in the districts and have already instructed all organisations to hold camps even in the evenings to tide over the crisis,” he added.

The situation at Subodh Mitra Memorial Cancer Hospital is appalling. The Salt Lake-based hospital treats leukaemia, thalassaemia and haemophilia patients. “With dwindling stocks, we apprehend that by end-May we will be in a precarious condition,” said director of the hospital Asish Mukherjee.

Thalassaemia Society of India (TSI) used to organise 20 camps a week in the districts, but the camps have dwindled to five a week. “Despite all our efforts we are facing a crisis. We can’t even use old stocks as fresh blood (not more than seven days old) is required,” said Utpal Panda of TSI.

The situation is the same at the RG Kar blood bank, the Central Blood Bank and Life Care. A spokesman for the Central Blood Bank said they had to return many patients empty-handed. “There is a regular crisis in summer, but the elections have made things worse,” said Panda, who depends on the government blood banks for the 17-18 blood transfusions a day at the society.

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