In the past 5 years over 2.8 million precious units of blood and it’s components were discarded several blood banks across the country. These have certainly raised the eyebrows of those who suffered due to in efficient supply of blood in times of need, thereby exposing serious loopholes in the Indian blood banking system.
The cumulative wastage was of around 6%, if calculated in litres, rounds off more than 6 lakh litres—a volume enough to fill up 53 water tankers. States like Maharashtra, Uttar Pradesh, Karnataka, Tamil Nadu were among the worst offenders, discarding not just whole blood but even life-saving components such as red blood cells and plasma as the life-saving products could not be used before the end of their shelf life.
In 2016-17 alone, over 6.57 lakh units of blood and its products were discarded and the most worrying part is that 50% of the wasted units was plasma that has a longer shelf life of one year as compared to whole blood and red blood cells that have to be used within 35 days.
The spoilage was revealed by data provided by the National Aids Control Organisation (NACO) in response to an RTI query by Chetan Kothari. Maharashtra, which is the only state to have crossed the one million mark in blood collection, also topped the dubious list with maximum wastage of whole blood followed by West Bengal and Andhra Pradesh. Maharashtra, UP and Karnataka bagged the top three positions in discarding the highest units of red blood cells. UP and Karnataka wasted the maximum units of fresh frozen plasma. In 2016-17, over 3 lakh units of fresh frozen plasma was discarded, which is ironic given that the product is imported by several pharma companies to produce albumin.
Crusaders for safe blood blamed the crisis on the absence of a robust blood sharing network between the banks and hospitals. Mass camps have particularly come under fire with many blaming the local politicians for using blood donation camps as an easy tool to please their constituencies. Dr Zarine Bharucha of the Indian Red Cross Society said that a collection of upto 500 units is what is acceptable and manageable. But it seems like camps collected over 3000 units of blood. And most importantly there aren’t that many storage areas to store that amount of blood.