On this World Blood Donor Day, we need to take a stand to protect voluntary blood donation from a massive threat posed by the brazen and rampant demand for replacement of blood units by hospital based blood banks.
The reason why numerous blood donors donate blood is because they believe that the units they donate will be available to any and every needy patients without any discrimination or barrier. The message that many hospitals will not accept blood which is readily available on the shelves, and yet continue to demand replacement is a serious deterrent for regular voluntary blood donors.
The family of the patients continue to suffer under the coercive demands of the hospitals that are treating their patient. They continue to be blackmailed and harassed into getting blood donors.
The government has removed the known roadblocks as far as the law is concerned in order to ensure that every hospital based blood bank is able to participate in voluntary blood donation camps. This has paved the way for the implementation of the national blood policy which envisions that blood be sourced from voluntary non-remunerated blood donors without any coercion into action. Yet, majority of hospital based blood banks show no sign of moving from replacement to voluntary blood donation.
Blood donors are at loss to understand why their peers continue to suffer - looking for blood units even when the blood banks continue to tell them that they have enough stocks and are happy to provide blood to anyone. This is breaking the trust relationship between the donors and the blood banks.
Blood donated by voluntary non-remunerated blood donors is the safest. It is high time that the onus of organising blood products is shifted from the patient to the hospitals. Sufficient blood should be collected, tested and be kept ready well in advance. The family of the patient should not be involved in the process of organizing for blood. This is the case in most countries which have a well established blood donation program. The Government must intervene to stop the practice of blood banks asking the patient’s family to bring in blood donors.
The fact that voluntary blood donation has shown steady rise across the country is testimony to the commitment of the common man’s willingness to participate in ensuring there is enough safe and sustainable supply of blood. Majority of hospital based blood banks do not put effort to participate in voluntary blood donation camps and at the same time they do not accept blood units donated by voluntary blood donors from other blood banks. The demand for replacement blood units is making it impossible for large number of patients to receive blood from truly voluntary non-remunerated blood donors, and thus the voluntary blood donation movement is being suppressed from being able to ensure blood for all.
20 years after the reforms for blood donations were set in motion by the Supreme Court of the country and only 2.5 years are left to achieve the national and global goal for 100% voluntary blood donation by the year 2020 across the country. It is high time that the regulatory bodies take note of the real issues threatening to derail the vision 2020 and take the following steps to systematically eliminate replacement blood collection.
Each hospital must be made to publicly disclose the collection of blood from truly voluntary blood donors versus blood donors who have been forced to donate because the hospital asked the family to organise donors (whatever name the hospitals choose to give to cover up this grave malpractice).
Each blood bank must be asked to share a plan on how they are going to move from their current level of replacement donation to zero replacement in a time bound manner and the reporting of this should be integrated with the existing systems of monitoring blood banking.
There should be clear messaging from National Blood Transfusion Council and other regulatory bodies strongly condemning, discouraging and wherever possible legally limiting the process of replacement blood donation.
If the government fails to offer protection to patients and allow unrestricted exploitation of the patients - it will cause serious and irreversible damage to the voluntary blood donation movement.