In complaint to state body, patients say blood banks in Pune charge them for blood despite government order saying it should be free; 2-member committee set up to look into issue

Blood banks in the city are fleecing thalassaemia patients and refusing them free blood for transfusion. This is not an allegation levelled by just one individual but by hundreds of thalessaemic patients, who have complained to the State Blood Transfusion Council (SBTC) located in Mumbai's JJ Hospital about the unsavoury business carried out by blood banks.

Blood money: Thalassaemia patients complain they have to pay banks
up to Rs 800 for a bag of blood even though it should be free for them.
Representation pic

The complaints have forced SBTC to appoint a two-member committee of Dr Meenal Landge, in-charge of the Sassoon General Hospital blood bank, and Dr Atul Kulkarni, director of Jankalyan Rakta Pedhi, to look into the issues. The committee has been asked to submit a report within three days.

According to an official from SBTC, patients from the city have been complaining that they have had to pay between Rs 750 and Rs 800 per bag of blood whenever they approached a blood bank. "Actually, the state government has directed all blood banks to give blood free of cost to thalassaemia patients. For every bag, they receive Rs 100 as a token, even though we know that the cost of processing a bag of blood is much more. But since blood banks are run by charitable trusts, they are expected to do this," said the official.
According to procedure, if a thalassaemic child comes to a blood bank, he is supposed to be given the first blood unit free of cost and, at the same time, directed to Sassoon hospital.

"Here, they access the patient's documents and send papers to SBTC, where their name gets registered and an I-card is given to them. Whenever a patient needs blood, he is supposed to visit any blood bank and show his I-card to get blood free of cost," said Dr Atul Kulkarni. The doctor added that for practical purposes, children usually get registered at the blood bank where their paediatrician is located.

"However, sometimes these blood banks don't have enough stock and refer patients to other centres. The referred centre charges the patients is what we assume, though it shouldn't happen. Ideally, if blood banks communicate between themselves and take care of each other's patients in cases of shortage, these problems wouldn't arise," he said. Kulkarni added that he and Landge would visit the blood banks where patients have complained profiteering is taking place and find out the root cause of the complaints.