Blood money: Mumbai hospitals flout norms; charge more for blood units

The state government may have specified exact rates for buying an unit of plasma or blood from blood banks, but several private hospitals in the city are openly flouting the rule by charging upto four times the amount from hapless relatives of patients

The state health ministry may have announced a set of norms to curb malpractices at blood banks and bring down the irregularities in the prices of blood bags, but investigations by sunday mid-day discovered that hapless patients are still being charged exorbitant rates for blood and it’s components.

At Hinduja hospital, Jaslok hospital as well as Bombay hospital the charges for whole blood, Freshly Frozen Plasma (FFP), platelets and cryoprecipitate were several times higher than the rates set by the state health ministry. To make matters worse the cost of a unit of blood increases by at least Rs 200 depending the class of the room.

The National Blood Transfusion Council recently sent out a circular announcing the revision of the processing charges of blood and its components where the charges for blood bags at all blood banks were increased from the 2011 rates (see box). While the processing fee per unit of blood supplied for transfusion was set at Rs 850, along with a ban on hospitals from asking patients to organize replacement donors, private hospitals unabashedly continue to charge arbitrary rates.

Jaslok Hospital, Peddar Road
The processing charges for whole blood or packed red cells for an economy room here is Rs 1,710 after IV generation ELISA testing to rule out HIV, Hepatitis B and C. Whereas a unit of FFP, platelets and cryoprecipitate (350 ml) costs Rs 1,310 and Rs 1,080 respectively if the patient is admitted in an economy class room. The rates for the same blood given to patients admitted in a higher-class room will shoot up by at least Rs 230 for each unit of blood and an additional Rs 150 for platelets and Rs 230 for FFP. When contacted, Dr Harish Ahuja, in-charge of the blood bank argued that the processing charges were higher than the rates set by the government as they conduct more tests. “It is our hospital’s policy to increase the rates as per the class of the room,” he added.

Hinduja Hospital, Mahim
The hospital’s blood bank charges a whopping Rs 2,460 for a unit of packed red cells which increases to around Rs 3,000 if the patient is not admitted in economy class. When contacted, Dr Anand Deshpande, in charge of the blood bank said, “The processing charges include two specific tests and the rates don’t vary as per the class of the room.”

Bombay Hospital, Marine Lines
Packed red cells rates here are Rs 1,600 and can increase to almost Rs 2,000 if the patient is in a deluxe room. FFP rates are Rs 800. Cryoprecipitate rates can are a whopping Rs 1,700. Attempts to contact Dr Paresh Marathe from the hospital’s blood bank proved futile.

Patient woes
The family of a 39-year-old patient (name withheld on request) admitted at the Jaslok hospital, has already spent R84,000 in two days for her blood and platelet transfusions. “We’re managing as of now as she has insurance. We have spent nearly Rs 4,000 for platelet bags each day along with the other testing charges,” said Rakesh Goel, a relative of the patient from Rajasthan.

Dr Sanjay Jadhav, director of SBTC said, “Private blood banks charge extra because they conduct additional tests. We will meet doctors from all blood banks where the rates will be fixed. Then, if there is any violation of rules, we will not issue the NOC for fresh license to those blood banks.”

>> Government rate for an unit of blood is Rs 850
>> Top private hospitals charge between Rs 1,700 and Rs 2,400
>> Authorities say upper limit for rates to be fixed soon

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