It is a matter of serious concern that a good part of the blood which is collected by blood banks in the country goes waste for various reasons. It is estimated that at least six lakh litres of blood is wasted every year. The National Human Rights Commission recently directed the union health ministry to probe the wastage of 28 lakh units of blood in the last five years. It also told the ministry to take immediate steps to prevent such wastage. The serious nature of the wastage can be imagined from the fact that the total collection of blood in an year is just over nine million units. The country annually needs about 12 million units, and it is doubly wrong to waste blood when the supply is far short of demand. States like Maharashtra, UP, Karnataka and Tamil Nadu are the worst offenders in the matter of wastage.
According to the union health ministry's information, given to Parliament during the last session, the wastage is due to deterioration during storage and expiry. The specific reasons are bacterial contaminations, infections, discolouration, failure to meet quality standards, etc. The lack of coordination between hospitals and blood banks is another reason. A health ministry report has admitted that most government-run blood banks are not regularly inspected and they do not comply with the best standards. Norms are not followed in the licensing of blood banks. It is estimated that only 55% of the blood banks have a valid licence. The health ministry recently announced that about 80 blood banks would be started to add to the existing 2,800 in the country. It must be ensured that the old and new blood banks are technically equipped to preserve blood in the best conditions for as long as possible.
Blood has components like plasma, red cells and platelets and these also need to be stored efficiently. But only about 40% of the blood banks in the country have component separation facilities. The private sector fares better than government blood banks in this respect. Some blood banks have done well to install Nucleic Acid Test lab facility which can screen for some major infections like HIV and Hepatitis B viruses. The need for blood is increasing every year in the country. Supply, which is already short, is not catching up. Many needy patients do not get blood in time, and malpractices abound. So, the preservation of blood in the best conditions is very important. Both the government and private blood banks must invest more in technologies and expertise which will prevent wastage of blood.