In an alarming revelation through an RTI query, which exposes serious loopholes in the nation’s blood banking system, it has been found that in the last five years, over 28 lakh units of blood and its components were discarded by banks across India.
The cumulative wastage of 6 per cent translates to over 6 lakh litres – a volume enough to fill up 53 water tankers, says a Times of India report.
India, on an average, faces a shortfall of 3 million units of blood annually. This scarcity of blood, plasma or platelets leads to several cases of maternal mortality and deaths in cases of accidents.
In reply to the RTI query filed by petitioner Chetan Kothari, the data provided by the National Aids Control Organisation (NACO), it was found that Maharashtra, Uttar Pradesh, Karnataka and Tamil Nadu were the top four states which discarded not just the whole blood but even red blood cells and plasma as they could not be used before their expiry date.
In 2016-17 alone, over 6.57 lakh units of blood and its products were discarded.
The alarming part is that 50 per cent of the wasted units were of plasma, which has a life of one year, much longer than the 35-days deadline in case of blood and RBCs.
Maharashtra, which is the only state to have crossed the one-million mark vis-a-vis collection of blood units, also accounted for the maximum wastage of whole blood, followed by West Bengal and Andhra Pradesh.
In terms of wasting the RBCs, Maharashtra, UP and Karnataka stood at the top three positions. UP and Karnataka also wasted the maximum units of fresh frozen plasma.
It was also found that over 3 lakh units of fresh frozen plasma were discarded in 2016-17, which is surprising as the product is imported by several pharma companies to produce albumin.
According to the report, supporters of safe blood blamed the crisis on the absence of a robust blood sharing network between banks and hospitals. Donation camps involving thousands of participants have also come under fire, with many blaming local politicians for using them as a tool to please constituents.
Dr Zarine Bharucha of the Indian Red Cross Society pointed out that a collection of up to 500 units was acceptable and manageable.
“But we have seen and heard of camps where 1,000 to 3,000 units are collected… Where is the place to store so much blood?” she added, “Why can’t people walk into regular banks and donate once every three months?” Dr Zarine was quoted by Times of India as saying.