New Delhi: The govenment is planning a quasi-legal regulatory authority, four large-sized metro blood banks and a battery of blood storage units across India to ensure an adequate and safe supply of blood to patients. With an aim to give blood donations an incentive, a project is also underway to make sure that voluntary donors are never denied blood when they need it.
The initiatives, planned by the National AIDS Control Organization (Naco) and the ministry of health and family welfare, could help plug the blood supply deficit in India, which collects 8.5-10 million units a year and dispenses 6.5-8 million through some 2,300 licensed banks. One unit of blood is 450ml.
Announcing setting up of the National Blood Authority, Union minister for health Anbumani Ramadoss said, “It will be an independent authority with both promotional and regulatory aspect. There will be a legality to it and we will bring it through a parliamentary act.” Ramadoss said the authority will be set up in six to eight months though parliamentary approval could take up to three years.
Moreover, the government is drafting a National Blood Transfusion Services Act which will make it mandatory to put good laboratory practices in place, ensure quality of services and lay down penalties for erring personnel.
India has very high incidence of viruses in its blood supply, leading to rampant transfusion-led infections. R.N. Makroo, director of transfusion medicine in New Delhi’s Indraprastha Apollo hospital estimates the incidence of the HIV/AIDS virus in donors to be as much as nine per 1,000, up to two per 100 for Hepatitis B, and between 0.28% and 0.53% for Hepatits C. In comparison, in the US, the frequency of viral transmission per unit of blood transfused is one in 1.5 million for HIV, one in 200,000 for Hepatitis B, and one in a million for Hepatitis C.
In an article on 15 November, Mint had reported that because of shortage of donated blood, lack of trained personnel and outmoded screening tests, patients run the risk of contracting HIV, Hepatitis B, and other infections.
Naco is also set to launch a project under which photo-identity “smart cards” are given out and donors can be assured of blood whenever they need it from any Naco-aided blood bank. A pilot project will kick off in a couple of months in 60 districts in Gujarat, Tamil Nadu and Chandigarh, said Debasish Gupta, national programme officer for blood safety at Naco.
The government is setting up four centres of excellence in blood banking in New Delhi, Mumbai, Chennai and Kolkata with a capacity of collecting and testing 100,000 units of blood in a year. These centres will deploy what is called “nucleic acid testing” technique that reduces the risk of transfusing blood infected by HIV, Hepatitis B and Hepatitis C by between 34% and 92%.