No coordination between blood banks and hospitals, 6 lakh litres of blood wasted in five years
MUMBAI: In the last five years, over 28 lakh units of blood and its components were discarded by banks across India, exposing serious loopholes in the nation’s blood banking system.
If calculated in litres, the cumulative wastage of 6% translates to over 6 lakh litres —a volume enough to fill up 53 water tankers.
India faces, on average, a shortfall of 3 million units of blood annually. Lack of blood, plasma or platelets often leads to maternal mortality as well as deaths in cases of accidents involving severe blood loss.
Maharashtra, Uttar Pradesh, Karnataka and Tamil Nadu were among the worst offenders, discarding not just whole blood but even red blood cells and plasma as the life-saving components could not be used before their expiry date.
- India faces, on average, a shortfall of 3 million units of blood annually
- Whole blood and red blood cells have a shelf life of 35 days
- But the discarded units of blood contain plasma which has a shelf life of one year
In 2016-17 alone, over 6.57 lakh units of blood and its products were discarded.
The worrying part is that 50% of the wasted units were of plasma, which has a shelf life of one year, much longer than the 35-day deadline by which whole blood and red blood cells have to be used. The spoilage has been laid bare in data provided by the National Aids Control Organisation (Naco) in response to an RTI query filed by petitioner Chetan Kothari.
Maharashtra, which is the only state to have crossed the one-million mark vis-a-vis collection of blood units, also accounted for the maximum wastage of whole blood, followed by West Bengal and Andhra Pradesh.
Maharashtra, UP and Karnataka bagged the top three positions in the wastage of red blood cells. UP and Karnataka also wasted the maximum units of fresh frozen plasma.
In 2016-17, over 3 lakh units of fresh frozen plasma were discarded, which is surprising given that the product is imported by several pharma companies to produce albumin.
Crusaders for safe blood blamed the crisis on the absence of a robust blood sharing network between banks and hospitals. Donation camps involving thousands of participants have particularly come under fire, with many blaming local politicians for using them as a tool to please constituents.
Dr Zarine Bharucha of the Indian Red Cross Society pointed out that a collection of up to 500 units was acceptable and manageable.
“But we have seen and heard of camps where 1,000 to 3,000 units are collected… Where is the place to store so much blood?” she added, “Why can’t people walk into regular banks and donate once every three months?” she said.
Dr Satish Pawar, head of the directorate of health services in Maharashtra, said that the wastage could be attributed to a “noble health plan to curtail maternal deaths”.
“We have created more than 200 storage centres in interior areas for emergencies… We would rather be prepared to save a life than worry about unused units of blood,” he said. While Naco officials could not be reached for an official comment, a senior health ministry official told TOI that Naco had allowed banks to transfer units last year. “In 2016-17, there is a near 17% fall in wastage. Also, hospitals have to keep blood in emergency reserve to deal with mass casualties,” the officer said.
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