KAMPALA – The Minister for Health, Dr. Jane Aceng has explained circumstances under which patients in need of blood transfusion may be charged for the donated blood, despite Government policy declaring blood free in the country.
Aceng’s explanation is detailed in her statement to Parliament following questions raised by Odonga Otto (Aruu County) tasking the Ministry to explain why health facilities around the country are selling donated blood to unsuspecting patients.
She acknowledged that the Ministry isn’t in position to deny the allegations because the process of blood collection and supply still requires refinement and digitization for better tracking and accountability.
The Minister affirmed that Government policy stipulates that blood issued to both Government and private hospitals must be given free to patients in need of blood and anyone found selling to patients is liable to prosecution in the courts of law.
She said that however, while blood itself is free, private hospitals do charge for processes that must be carried out before the transfusion that includes grouping and cross-matching to establish the patient’s blood group and hence the correct blood for transfusion blood.
The Minister also said that patients are likely to be charged for blood because the service comes with other consumables like; cotton, gauze, disinfectants, cannulas, sterile supplies and that some public hospitals may also request patients to buy these items in the event that stocks run out.
She, however, called on Ugandans to furnish the Ministry with proof of being charged for blood stating that it is possible that some health workers may demand for payment for blood.
The Minister also explained the blood shortage across the country, attributing the challenge to the failure to collect blood from Regional Blood banks by many health care facilities due to Transport budgetary constraints.
Additionally, Aceng said that most of the health care facilities are unaware of their weekly, monthly, yearly blood requirements which greatly hinders the planning process by UBTS and in incidences where health facilities make orders for more blood, this leads to blood expiring in their facilities.
As a result, the Ministry of Health is set to develop a digitalized system of tracking blood from collection point malpractices to the beneficiary, saying this will, help curb give better statistics on blood consumption and wastage in the country.
The national blood demand is estimated at 400,000 units of blood, but Uganda Blood Transfusion Services is only in the position to collect 300,000 of blood per year which translates into 85% hospital blood demands.