Odisha Sun Times Bureau
Cuttack, May 4:
Preliminary investigations into Odisha government’s decision to sell blood component (plasma) derived from surplus blood units stored in blood banks across the state to Reliance Life Sciences Pvt Ltd has brought startling facts to light.
During a probe by the Cuttack ADM Laxmidhar Mohanty, the Cuttack Central Red Cross Blood Bank authorities here failed to produce any official letter or order issued by the department of Health & Family Welfare, authorizing them to sell blood plasma to a private company called the Reliance Life Sciences Pvt Ltd (RLS), said sources.
Cuttack collector Girish SN had on Saturday asked the ADM to inquire into reports about Cuttack Central Red Cross Blood Bank selling 200 units of blood plasma to the private company.
However, blood bank authorities were able to produce only an email dated April 25 issued by Rajalaxmi Mohanty, director, State Blood Transfusion Council (SBTC) in this connection, said sources.
On April 25 Mrs Mohanty had emailed such letters to all blood banks in the state. The email mentioned that a decision to sell blood plasma to RLS was taken at a meeting in the presence of the secretary Health department.
However, this email can not be said to have been an official government order, sources pointed out.
The big question is : in the absence of a government order to the Cuttack Central Red Cross Blood Bank authorizing it to sell blood plasma to any private company, how did it sell 200 units to RLS ?
Secondly, while Cuttack Central Red Cross Blood Bank sold 200 units to RLS, a copy of the letter from the director of SBTC was not shared with the Cuttack collector, who is also the chairman of the governing body of the Cuttack Central Red Cross Blood Bank.
Doubts have been raised over the competence of the SBTC director to issue official instructions on a sensitive issue without proper authorisation by the state Health department.
While informing that blood bank authorities could not produce any letter issued by the Health & Family Welfare department in this regard, the Cuttack ADM Mohanty confirmed that the Cuttack Central Red Cross Blood Bank authorities had indeed sold 200 units of blood plasma to Reliance Life Sciences Pvt Ltd on April 30 from out of the surplus 800 units of blood available with them.
The ADM said he will submit a report to the collector on Monday after he receives all the documents in this regard from the blood bank authorities.
In a shocking revelation, ADM Mohanty said the blood bank does not maintain a proper register with details about the blood stock available with it.
It may be mentioned here that in a meeting of the Odisha State AIDS Control Society (OSACS) held on April 29 in Bhubaneswar the Blood Bank Officers were apprised of the state government’s decision to sell blood component (blood plasma) out of the surplus blood units stored in blood banks across the state to Reliance Life Sciences Pvt Ltd and were asked to give their views in the matter.
Blood bank officers from Central Red Cross Blood Bank, Cuttack , SCB Medical College,Cuttack, VSS Medical College, Burla, MKCG Medical College, Brahmapur, Capital Hospital Blood Bank, Bhubaneswar, and Angul Blood bank were present in the meeting.
These six blood banks which have blood component separation facilities were asked to sell their surplus blood component (plasma) to Reliance Life Sciences Pvt Ltd. It was also decided at the meeting that the blood plasma would be sold to the company at the rate of Rs 1,000 per litre.
The meeting was told that it was difficult to run blood banks due to a resources crunch and that the money earned from selling blood plasma will be utilized for managing and developing blood banks in the state.
Reports said, while the Cuttack Central Red Cross Blood Bank has sold 200 units of blood plasma to the company, the VSS Medical College, Burla has sold 1200 units in the first phase.
Now that the matter has been agitated in the public space, the onus is now on the state government to come out with an explanation for this clandestine deal with a private company in a matter that has a huge bearing on public health services and treatment of patients who have to run from pillar to post to get the live-saving blood and plasma.