Mumbai: BMC blood banks ailing with just 57 per cent staff

A reply to an RTI query by a doctor reveals that eight major blood banks need 95 staff such as blood transfusion officers, senior technicians, lab assistants, etc

A day after mid-day revealed the sorry state of BMC's periphery hospitals struggling to resolve the acute shortage of doctors, more data reveals how the blood banks of eight major BMC hospitals are functioning with a massive staff shortage. The data, accessed by a doctor through RTI, shows how the blood banks, with a total collection capacity of 81,555 units (approximately 28,544 litres) per year are struggling to function with merely 127 employees against the FDA standards of 222 employees, which is just 57 per cent.

FDA is the licensing authority for blood banks. The Joint Commissioner (drugs) said they have investigated the matter and they will soon take action. Pic/AFP
FDA is the licensing authority for blood banks. The Joint Commissioner (drugs) said they have investigated the matter and they will soon take action. Pic/AFP

These include BTO – blood transfusion officers, senior technicians and laboratory assistants among others. More surprisingly, even after the Assistant Commissioner and Self-licensing authority of the Food and Drugs Administration (FDA) notified the Municipal Commissioner of BMC through correspondence on October 20 (mid-day has a copy), pointing out the issue and seeking resolution, and investigating the matter, no action has been taken till date.

Short staffed
The doctor said that a reply to his RTI query on November 3, revealed the disproportionate staff number in the blood banks of BMC-run hospitals.

Shortage of BTOs in the blood banks can be seen as the most serious, as FDA norms direct that a BTO needs to be present at the blood bank 24x7, to monitor every single action, right from collection, grouping, cross-matching and donation of blood and maintaining records of bags of blood collected during blood donation camps. In the BTO's absence, a hospital's blood bank can provide blood transfusions to in-house patients, but it is not allowed to collect additional blood bags through camps or store new ones.

The RTI query revealed that the blood bank of KEM Hospital, one of the busiest in the city with a total yearly capacity of blood collection of 35,000 units (12,250 litres), is functioning with two BTOs but needs nine BTOs as per standards.

Speaking to mid-day, the doctor said that the absence of standard number of BTOs at a blood bank is like a pharmacy being run without a pharmacist.

"According to the State Blood Transfusion Committee (SBTC) norms, even the smallest possible blood bank should have at least four BTOs present. While every single action at a blood bank is carried out under their supervision, they also have to look after a patient who suffers reactions or other medical complications during a transfusion. It can be fatal to have only one or two BTOs running the busy blood banks at our civic hospitals," said the doctor.

While a complaint filed by the doctor to FDA officials regarding the shortage of blood bank officials propelled them into action, a letter was immediately sent to the BMC commissioner on October 20. The letter gave the information accessed through RTI, it also stated that recruitment of staff is the responsibility of BMC officials, and necessary action needs to be taken to resolve the issue.

FDA speak
Talking to mid-day, FDA Joint Commissioner (drugs) B R Masal said that while giving the licence, they make sure that the blood banks have at least minimum staff to run smoothly, however, if such inconsistencies are noticed, action will be taken against the blood bank.

"Recruiting staff members is the responsibility of BMC officials. While giving licences to the blood banks, we make sure that they have necessary staff members. The letter has already been sent, the matter has been investigated by FDA and we will soon take necessary action," said Masal.

Sanjay Deshmukh, Additional Municipal Commissioner (Health) was unavailable for comment in spite of repeated attempts to contact him.

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