6 lakh litres of blood thrown away over 5 years! Wait, WHAT?

If reports published on certain online news portals in April, 2017 are to be believed, this statement comes up as a huge shock for all the people of India, let alone any organization.
But how true is the report?
India, on an average, faces an acute blood shortage amounting upto 3 million units and wastage of this quantum would be a slap on the entire system. Additionally, the numerous lives which went unsaved due to the apparent shortage, their loss can never be accounted for.
What the data analysts fail to understand before publishing the report are some very elementary facts.
First, blood like any other commodity has a brief shelf life.
Second, donated blood needs to match with every aspect of the patient before it can be transfused into their system.
Third, hospitals encourage patients’ family to find donors in order to inculcate the habit of regular donations in the society. They also fail to understand that the hospitals need to maintain a stock of blood for unforeseen circumstances which might arise.
The first two aspects are fairly simple to understand while the final rung in the ladder is something which is the root cause of most problems. The query being – when hospitals have blood why don’t they provide it to the needy when required?
Simple, they have the blood in stock with them, but most of it is kept in reserve to tackle any contingency that may arise in the area, the happening of which can never be predicted. Besides, if they start doing so instead of asking, rather encouraging, the kin of the patient to look for donors from within the family or their friends, thereby creating a sense of importance for the cause of blood donation and also creating an awareness in the ignorant society, people start taking the system for granted and no efforts of any kind are made on their end thereby disrupting the balance of the entire system.
Sanjay Gandhi Post Graduate Institute of Medical Science situated in Lucknow, Uttar Pradesh is one of the largest public hospitals in the state. It was named one among the largest contributors in the state to be accused for blood wastage. But, it stands tall as an example as to why such reports are nothing but a farce.
Catering to the medical needs of the entire state of Uttar Pradesh, not a single patient casualty has happened in the hospital over the period concerning the report due to blood shortage. Not only that, in the current scenario (as on 13/08/2017) at the time when I am writing this article, it is such that the blood bank at the hospital is running at full capacity to ensure that no one suffers due to the apparent blood shortage, as stated by senior members of the Dept. of Transfusion Medicine at the hospital.
It is of utmost importance to save lives. But in that course, some amount of blood gets wasted, not deliberately but imperatively. The hospital/blood bank administrators themselves would never want to waste the effort that goes into collecting one unit of blood out of voluntary blood donations, let alone 6 lakh litres of blood and also the lack of communications between various blood banks and hospitals further adds to this ever growing problem.
With passing time, the usability of stored blood keeps going down and there are situations when it is not feasible for the hospital/blood bank to transfuse the blood collected a while back, the wastage or non-use is completely justified rather the right thing to do and the correct course of action.
Though there is one serious problem with the entire structure that is currently in place, which is that of sharing. Till date no solution to this problem has been put in place. The blood banks are still not interconnected so that they can help each other in case of requirement of a component not available with them. Sooner or later the problem which currently seems very menial will come banging at the doors and if left unprepared the situation might worsen.
It is time the authorities woke up and took cognizance of the disaster waiting for them.


– Shashwat Singh




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