Blood supplies critically low

HARARE - The National Blood Services of Zimbabwe (NBSZ) has said stocks of all blood types are critically low, with two days’ supply only left.

If not quickly addressed, the development will worsen the health crisis in Zimbabwe, as most public hospitals are already failing to stock basic drugs like pain killers.

NBSZ public affairs manager Esther Massundah confirmed the development saying “as of today (November 2) we are sitting on two days stock”.

“Stock levels for the blood bank are low at the moment for all blood groups,” she said, adding “...NBSZ is working frantically to improve the situation”.

“Additional temporary mobile teams have been put in place in an effort to widen the collection base until the situation improves,” Massundah said.

Every year, approximately 100 000 packs of blood are transfused in the country, with accidents and anaemic patients consuming 60 percent of the blood bank supplies, while the other 40 percent of collected blood is consumed by haemorrhaging women.

She, however, said they were expecting the blood supply to improve in the near future.

“School children are currently writing examinations as such, we expect the situation to normalise soon as a series of blood drives are lined up for the December-January period. The month of December is set aside as Youth Donor Month on the blood drive calendar and youths who are currently writing exams will have the opportunity to make their donation during the Youth Donor Month.

“On the adult side,...other partners/communities are engaging the NBSZ to arrange special blood drive sessions which will assist during this period. NBSZ welcomes on board new blood drive partner; Islamic Medical Association of Zimbabwe who have arranged a blood drive for November 5 and other partners are still coming on board in an effort to boost the blood bank,” she said.

Meanwhile, NBSZ has reduced the blood price to $80 from $100 in compliance with a Health ministry directive.

In a statement, the ministry argued that the organisation could achieve the price cut by streamlining operational and human resources costs.

“The high cost of blood and blood products in Zimbabwe has, for a long time now, been a matter of concern for both government and patients. Currently, the price of blood (packed cells) is $100 for public sector patients and $120 for private sector patients,” Health minister David Parirenyatwa said.

“These figures are clearly exorbitant and out of reach for most people and especially in this harsh economic environment. For a start, we have, therefore, instructed NBSZ to come up with measures through streamlining of the cost drivers, for example, operational and human resources cost to reduce the price for a unit of blood to, at most, $80,” he said.

“We, therefore, expect to see a reduction in the price of blood to $80 by November 1, 2017 without fail.”

However, despite the reduction, Zimbabwe’s blood prices remains high compared to the regional peers.

In neighbouring Zambia,  a pint of blood costs as low as $50.

During a tour of the blood blank, legislators revealed last year that some people living close to the country’s borders with Zambia were importing blood from Zambia, as it is cheaper.

Last year, the cost of blood in Zimbabwe was revised downwards from $135 a pint to $100 to improve the accessibility of blood by patients.

Government has been challenging the NBSZ to find ways of reducing the cost of blood.

Principal director in the Health ministry (Curative Service), Sidney Makarau, earlier this year said if the blood blank could reduce its operating costs, it will result in the reduction of blood prices.

“They collect blood, they process it, they don’t give us free, they sell to us, so it is the NBSZ I am challenging,” Makarau said at the side-lines of a press conference to launch Zimbabwe’s World Blood Donor Day commemorations.

“If you ask them why they cost blood so much, they say that most of the expenses go into processing of the product, otherwise administrative, you need the driver to go and collect the blood, you need a lorry, a caravan, you need to buy the bags ... all those are then costed into the unit itself.”

“In the most ideal situation that would be right that government comes in by subsidising the price of blood in its institutions but because of the fiscal constraints that is not possible.”

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