Bloody crisis

Awareness about the various techniques and voluntary blood donors can reduce the shortage of blood supply in Delhil

Published: Sunday 15 March 1998

jasbir kaur, 23, died at a private nursing home in west Delhi on February 3, after childbirth due to severe bleeding. The doctor who treated her said that timely blood supply could have saved her.

"We had to wait for nine days for a transfusion," said Mam Chand, brother of a blood cancer patient. He said that another day's delay in finding blood could have cost him his brother's life.

The capital is facing a severe shortage of blood following a Supreme Court (sc) ban on professional donation which came into effect from January 1. The shortages have brought into focus the lack of voluntary donation and unscientific blood usage in India. Doctors recommend immediate action.

The apex court's judgement was to save blood recipients from professional donors who frequently donate blood and run the risk of infections ranging from hiv to Hepatitis- b and c. As per the National Aids Control Organisation (naco) figures, Delhi's with an annual blood demand of about three lakh units, is short of about one lakh units. The requirement of blood in India is about 60 lakh units but only half the demand is met. Last year, an estimated 12 lakh units came from professional donors. "Only 0.2 per cent people donate blood voluntarily in India," says Neel Kamal Singh, spokesperson for the Indian Red Cross Society (ircs). "If voluntary donor increased by two per cent there will be no scarcity of blood," he says.

"A lot of blood is wasted during transfusion," says K K Kohli, member of the National Blood Transfusion Council (nbtc). "If a patient needs only platelets, then only platelets should be given, instead of giving a whole unit of blood." "Even surgeons do not know about this practice," says Usha Gupta, a blood transfusion officer (bto) at the All India Institute of Medical Sciences (aiims).

Experts say even when small quantities of blood components are needed, doctors recommend transfusion. There are various techniques to use blood in a judicious way. In a technique called autologus transfusion - mostly used in planned surgeries - blood from the patient is taken about seven to 10 days before the surgery and administered to him after surgery. Meanwhile, the patient recuperates the blood taken from him. "But this technique is done four or five times in a month," says Gupta. Several factors work against this comparatively safer practice, doctors note. Says Gupta: "Often patients are scared of it. Though there is no medical risk, it may lead to diseases due to the patient's psychological problems." In another technique, salvage therapy, the blood lost during operation is collected and administered back to the patient. "This is used only in case of excessive bleeding during operation," says Gupta.

What worries the medical professionals is the fact that professional donors still donate blood. People are paying higher prices now. "Earlier a unit of blood used to cost Rs 280 for a positive group and Rs 320 for a negative group. But now it costs about Rs 800 per unit," says Jagdish Bharadwaj of Fellowship of Blood Donors. After an initial shortage in January this year, when even positive groups was scarce in leading centres, doctors now claim that the ban will not worsen the blood shortage.

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