BMC-run hospital's blood bank lacks doctors, HIV test kit

Oct 10, 2015, 07:03 IST | Sadaguru Pandit

Even five months after mid-day exposed how MT Agarwal Hospital was letting precious blood go to waste, the state of affairs at the BMC-run facility continues to be disappointing

Even five months after mid-day first highlighted the blatant wastage of lifesaving blood at the BMC-run MT Agarwal Hospital, the authorities don’t seem to have learnt from their mistakes. In fact, an RTI query has revealed how the facility’s blood bank is ill equipped and under staffed, which could pose a health risk in future.

Also read: Lifesaving blood goes down the drain at BMC hospital

The BMC-run  MT Agarwal hospital has not held a blood donation camp in nearly two years.  File pic for representationThe BMC-run MT Agarwal hospital has not held a blood donation camp in nearly two years. File pic for representation

While the State Blood Transfusion Council (SBTC) recommends that blood banks conduct blood donation camps every six months, the secondary care civic hospital has not held a single blood donation camp in the past 22 months, as the administration revealed in its response to an RTI application, filed by a Mumbai doctor in August. This is because the facility is facing a severe staff crunch and, in particular, lacks a dedicated Blood Transfusion Officer (BTO).

This means that even though it is one of the largest civic-run medical facilities in the Eastern suburbs, the hospital is dependent on private and public blood banks for blood.

The BTO is not only required to monitor blood collection, he or she is also supposed to supervise crosschecks on the received blood units. In the absence of the BTO, the hospital is dependant on external sources for blood, and once the units come in, technicians check them.

“The absence of doctors means the crosschecking of blood is done purely by the technicians, which is dangerous and unacceptable. The hospital is issuing blood to patients only on the basis of the technicians’ opinion, and without a doctor’s supervision,” said the RTI activist.

No staff
Instead of having a team of 10-12 — of which at least four should be doctors – the blood bank is relying on two staffers. Responding to the doctor’s query, the facility revealed that since November 2014, it has been working without a pathologist or haematologist, which is the necessary qualification for the post of the BTO. The Medical Officer (MO) had resigned in February 2014, after which a pathologist was hired for the post between March 2014 and July 2014. Surprisingly, since the MO, posted in August 2014 was later promoted as senior MO in the month of November, the blood bank has been functioning without a BTO or dedicated doctor.

HIV risk?
Further, the facility does not even possess the ELISA (enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay) kit that is used to test for the HIV virus. In its response to the RTI request, the hospital management said it was yet to acquire the test device, stating the ‘procedure for approval of proposal is in process.’

Considered as one of the most effective methods for HIV testing, the ELISA kit is widely used in all civic and private hospitals. They carry out a total of three tests for HIV on all blood resources. This means that when the MT Agarwal blood bank requests for blood from other facilities, it is unable to carry out all three tests.

“The hospital is putting patients’ lives in danger by not running this primary test. In the past, there have been instances when the blood delivered by one hospital or blood bank has had to be discarded by the recipient blood bank or hospital after re-testing. But this hospital doesn’t have the facility to check the blood again,” the RTI activist pointed out.

In April, mid-day had revealed how the hospital had let 282 units of blood go to waste (‘Livesaving blood goes down the drain at BMC hospital’, mid-day, April 27). In addition, since the blood bank lacked the Anti-h antiserum, it was wasting opportunities to save the rare Bombay type blood, also known as the hh or Oh type.

FDA remarks ignored
When the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) officials had visited the blood bank in June last year, they had suggested that it be converted to a blood storage centre, since the blood collection numbers were below average. However, even though the bank has not held a blood donation camp in nearly two years, it continues to function as a bank while ignoring the FDA’s suggestions.

The other side
A senior BMC official in charge of peripheral hospitals in the Central suburbs said it was unlikely that basic tests were not being conducted before issuing blood to patients, adding that the BMC was in the process of resolving difficulties at the blood bank. “I’ll have to check with the department about the ELISA kit. It is unlikely that basic norms are not being followed. As for the unavailability of the BTO, we are in the process of filling the position. The issue will soon be resolved,” said the official, requesting anonymity.

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