Odisha Sun Times Bureau
Cuttack, May 3:
In yet another case of government favouring private companies, the Odisha government has begun selling blood plasma derived from surplus blood units stored in blood banks collected from donors through volunteers and voluntary agencies to a private company, ‘Reliance Life Sciences’.
This bizarre trade is being sought to be explained away on the grounds that the money generated from it will be spent on infrastructure development of blood banks.
Blood plasma is the pale-yellow liquid component of blood that serves as the protein reserve of the human body and protects it from infection and other blood disorders.
In the first phase. blood banks in the state having blood component separation facilities, including the Central Blood Bank of the Red Cross in Cuttack, have already sold blood components (plasma) to Reliance Life Sciences at Rs 1,000 per litre.
The company will buy blood (plasma) from the blood banks on a regular basis. The private company will be selling the same as ‘Reli Plasma’ at ten times its purchase rate.
While many are dying in the state for want of blood and blood plasma, the move of the government makes one wonder in whose interest has the government taken such a decision.
A meeting of the Odisha State AIDS Control Society (OSACS) held on April 29 in Bhubaneswar apprised the Blood Bank Officers present at the meeting of the government’s decision and sought their opinion.
The meeting was attended by the office bearers of OSACS. However, the Health secretary and other senior officials of the department were conspicuously missing at the meeting.
The meeting discussed the government’s decision to sell blood to Reliance Life Sciences. While some blood bank officers did not accept the decision, some yielded under government pressure, said sources.
Blood bank officers from Central Blood Bank, Cuttack of the Red Cross, 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.
As per the decision of the government, these six blood banks will be selling their surplus blood component (plasma) to Reliance Life Sciences. It was decided at the meeting to sell blood plasma at Rs 1,000 per litre to the company.
However, the decision was opposed by some blood bank officers at the meeting. They cited shortage of plasma and said such a decision may prove fatal for patients. The officers were warned that the government had already taken a decision in this regard and it had to be carried out.
The meeting was told that it was difficult to run blood banks and money earned from selling blood components to the company will be utilized for managing and developing blood banks in the state.
Director of Central Blood Bank, Cuttack, Benudhar Satpathy, while maintaining that his organisation had no role in it, said it had to carry out any decision taken by the government.
Admitting that it had already sold 200 units of blood plasma to the company in the first phase, Satpathy said blood banks were having sufficient blood components with them which often go waste. The move by the government was therefore welcome, he said adding the VSS Medical College, Burla too had sold 1200 units of plasma to the company.
He said the sale of blood plasma by blood banks to Reliance Life Sciences is not restricted to Odisha alone.
The state government’s decision asking blood banks to sell blood components to Reliance Life Sciences has evoked strong reactions from the public at large.
Dr Prakash Rao, a social worker, said; “We are strongly opposed to the idea of government selling blood to a private company. The four components of a donor’s blood unit are utilized for patients with different requirements. We will oppose the move tooth and nail”.
“It’s a completely wrong decision. The government cannot sell blood. During my stint as director, I have seen patients in SCB Medical being issued one unit of plasma when they needed four as there is always shortage and reserves have to be maintained. If the government has taken such a decision it’s totally incorrect and will be opposed,” said former director of Central Red Cross Blood Bank, Cuttack, Banka Bihari Mishra.