Blood packs to carry ‘MRP’ tag in state
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By, Sanjeev Shivadekar
Mumbai , India
In a move that will bring huge relief to citizens, the Maharashtra public health department plans to affix an MRPlike tag on pouches of blood sold by any blood bank–private or public–in the state.
Senior state officials told TOI the reason was the government wanted to cap the processing charges levied by the blood banks for blood packs handed over to the patient or his/her relative. “We can’t call it the price tag or MRP as blood is not a saleable commodity. But, for all practical purposes, our move will stop the rampant overcharging of blood pouches in the state,” a senior official said.
Blood banks’ fees make NGOs see red
Mumbai: The state public health department wants to lay down guidelines to determine the upper limit for processing charges for blood pouches so that citizens are not taken for a ride in their time of crisis. Public health minister Suresh Shetty said on Thursday, “I have asked my officials to collect data on the charges incurred by the blood bank for marinating the blood bottles (packs) and the charges these banks levy on citizens while handing over the blood packs to them.”
The Punjab state government has already adopted a policy marking the maximum price that can be charged on the blood bottles or packs.
Vinay Shetty, vice–president of Think Foundation, an NGO working in the field of thalassaemia and blood donation, pointed out that annually 2.50 lakh people need to donate blood to meet the city’s requirement. “There are over 300 blood banks in the state (including 60 in Mumbai). There are no guidelines for these blood banks; each one follows its own set of rules. The government must speed up the formulation of a uniform policy that governs the functioning of blood banks and benefits the common man,” he said.
According to health department officials, following pressure from social activists and NGOs about hospitals charging exorbitant processing fees, Suresh Shetty has called a meeting in Mantralaya on Friday to discuss the issue. “The minister has asked Jayant Kumar Banthia (additional chief secretary, public health) to look into the aspects that need to be addressed while drafting the policy to streamline the blood banks in the state,” the official added
“The NGOs’ main contention is that while blood donation is done for a noble cause, blood banks levy a charge on customers and that too at exorbitant rates. Also, despite citizens having to dole out money for blood bottles, the hospital authorities ask theme to replenish the blood stock. Either you pay for the blood or give the replacement. The NGOs claim that demanding both from a patient is draconian,” the health department official said.
Admitting that there are flaws in the system, Shetty said his department was committed to enforcing the national blood transfusion policy in toto. “The health department will consult the stake holders (blood banks) so that their grievances are heard,” Shetty added.
Blood donation drives in Mumbai have in recent times set records in terms of collection. Yet many patients and their relatives continue to get stressed looking for donated blood. If relatives are not scrambling to seek replacement donors for the bottles of blood that hospitals give their patients, then they are worried about the cost of this basic unit of life. It wouldn't be wrong to say that relatives spend as much time and energy worrying about blood as they do about their patient's surgery. In this backdrop, the state government's move to standardise the processing fee for blood units is a noble one. Blood banks and hospitals have made a premium out blood products for far too long.