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Updated: July 20, 2013 13:57 IST

GRH red-faced as blood bags run short

Shastry V. Mallady
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LIFE-GIVING:The blood bank at Government Rajaji Hospital
in Madurai. Photo: S. James
The Hindu LIFE-GIVING:The blood bank at Government Rajaji Hospital in Madurai. Photo: S. James

Contaminated bags from private suppliers are cause for worry at Government Rajaji Hospital in Madurai.

There are donors aplenty, but not enough bags to store blood. This is the dilemma faced by the Government Rajaji Hospital (GRH) here. The hospital is locked in a standoff with the District AIDS Prevention and Control unit here over the supply of blood collection bags and test kits desperately needed by the blood bank.

The GRH Blood Bank has a steady stream of voluntary donors, but is struggling to meet its requirement of blood bags despite placing indents with the district office of the Tamil Nadu State AIDS Control Society (TANSACS).

Documents made available to The Hindu on Thursday reveal that the GRH is depending on hospitals outside Madurai to procure blood bags and test kits required to screen donors for HIV, malaria, Hepatitis B and Hepatitis C.

Over the last eight months, the blood bank has had to knock on the doors of government hospitals in Theni, Tiruchi, Tirunelveli, Erode, Rajapalayam, Virudhunagar, Salem, Vellore and Usilampatti for blood bags and HIV test kits.

On several occasions, the blood bank has had to go in for local purchases from medical stores using the Dean’s fund.

Interruption in supply has forced the GRH Blood Bank to buy 6,500 Rapid Plasma Reagin (RPR) kits through the hospital’s medical store between March 3 and June 26. An additional 8,500 RPR kits were procured from government hospitals outside Madurai from October 20 last year to March 28 this year.

“It is true that we are facing hardship due to a shortage of bags. I took the matter up with the district administration and the State health authorities,” N. Mohan, Dean, GRH, admits.

However, Project Manager of Madurai District AIDS Prevention and Control Unit M. Kalirajan blames the erratic supply of blood bags and screening kits on the National AIDS Control Organisation (NACO).

“It is NACO which supplies the materials and the role of TANSACS is only to supervise the distribution. Still, we try to help the GRH by diverting surplus bags from other places,” he says.

But GRH authorities worry that the disruption could affect blood collection. In 2010, a total of 14,803 units of blood were collected from 153 camps. The blood collection rose to 16,134 units the following year when 166 camps were organised. During 2012, the GRH Blood Bank crossed the 20,000 unit mark and conducted 238 camps.

From January to June this year, 117 camps were conducted and 10,010 units of blood collected. “We are able to do well despite the bag crunch and shortage of manpower in our blood bank. Now that the colleges have reopened, more camps can be conducted,” says Prabha Samiraj, Medical Officer, GRH Blood Bank.

Mobile blood collection units have been stationed at strategic locations for the convenience of the public.

According to GRH lab supervisor P. Senthil Arasu, the daily requirement of blood bags is 80. Currently, the Dean is in touch with the Tamil Nadu Medical Services Corporation (TNMSC) to ensure a steady supply of blood bags.

“We will be happy if the procurement section at TANSACS understands our need and maintains a buffer stock. Sometimes, the response of its staff is very hurting,” Dr.Samiraj says.

“Never stored”

The TNMSC Madurai warehouse in-charge M.Kannappan has claimed that expired bags are never stored and they will be sent to Chennai as and when received. However, Dr.Kalirajan had contradicted him by saying that 600 expired bags in 15 boxes are lying dumped in the collectorate warehouse on Friday and the information was passed on to Chennai.

When contacted, the Director of Medical Education C. Vamsadhara said that she had no knowledge about the short supply but still the GRH Dean can take steps to streamline the bag supply through local purchase. “Bags and kits are provided through TANSACS. The Dean has not brought scarcity matter to my notice,” she said.

Private banks

Meanwhile, there have been concerns over safety. The blood safety wing of the State Blood Council is stepping up surveillance of private blood banks in the city following an inspection of a private bank near Aavin Junction on March 15.

The inspection report submitted by a senior doctor has said that the blood bank had no proper temperature control systems or a record of the particulars of donors. Officials say there are 10 private blood banks in Madurai and claim they are periodically monitored.

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