Mumbai: Lack of refrigerators puts blood delivery scheme in cold storage

Jul 27, 2015, 11:21 IST | Sadaguru Pandit

Launched 18 months ago, the scheme had promised to deliver emergency blood supply on bikes anywhere in the city, but without the required licences or equipment, this service is yet to take off fully

Launched over a year and a half ago, the state’s Blood-on-Call scheme had promised to deliver emergency blood supply anywhere, any time, and at the standard rate of Rs 450. This sorely-needed service, however, is yet to take off as the authorities are yet to obtain basic equipment or the necessary licences.

The Blood-on-Call scheme had promised 24x7 delivery of blood anywhere in the city, but the service is yet to take off. File pic for representation
The Blood-on-Call scheme had promised 24x7 delivery of blood anywhere in the city, but the service is yet to take off. File pic for representation

mid-day had reported earlier that the government’s plan was to set up a chain of 9 blood storage units spread across Mumbai that would operate under the primary blood bank, Sir JJ Mahanagar Raktapedhi in Byculla.

These storage units were to provide immediate blood supply within a radius of 50 km each. However, with the authorities dragging their feet, this scheme is now 18 months behind deadline (‘State’s Blood-on-Call service yet to deliver’).

Of the nine blood storage centres proposed in Mumbai, only two are functional currently — at Bombay Port Trust Hospital, Wadala and Dr Babasaheb Ambedkar Memorial Hospital, Byculla. Even these do not operate round the clock, even though the scheme had assured 24x7 service.

As for the remaining centres, an RTI query revealed that State Blood Transfusion Council (SBTC) is yet to procure special refrigerators to store blood (at 2-8°C). While the tender for the same is still in process, the storage centres have one further roadblock they still don’t have the required licence from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

The hospitals will have to apply for the licence individually, once the SBTC has provided the required equipment. To add to their burden further, the hospitals will also have to hire extra staff for the blood centres, such as doctors and technicians. The SBTC will only provide four junior technicians.

Official speak
While Dr Girish Chaudhari, director SBTC was unavailable for comment in spite of repeated attempts to contact him, Dr Sandip Salokhe, medical director at Sir JJ Mahanagar Raktapedhi told mid-day that no patient or call is being turned down, and the authorities are trying to keep the scheme alive. “The issue of refrigerators has delayed the process, but they will be installed soon - most probably by the end of this month or early in August,” he added.

Asked how the hospitals would cope with the added burden of managing the blood storage centres, Dr Mahendra Wadiwala, chief medical superintendent of BMC’s peripheral hospitals, said there were still issues to iron out, such as the appointment of extra staff, but the authorities will first wait for the necessary licences and approvals to be put in place.

“There are three BMC hospitals where storage centres are supposed to be put up. We are only waiting for the state government’s approval to start the process,” he said.

Falling short
While the SBTC had promised 24x7 operations, only two blood storage units that are currently functional, do not stay open round the clock. While the centre at BPT Hospital is open on all seven days, from 9 am to 6 pm, the one at Dr Babasaheb Ambedkar Memorial Hospital functions from 8.30 am to 4 pm from Monday to Friday, and 8.30 am to 3 pm on Saturday, remaining closed on Sundays.

The RTI query also revealed that both centres had let blood go to waste. Of the 633 units received by BPT Hospital, 40 were allowed to expire. Dr Babasaheb Ambedkar Memorial Hospital in turn, could only make use of 6 units of blood and let 9 units go to waste.

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