Paidamoyo Chipunza Herald Reporter
National Blood Services Zimbabwe (NBSZ) has justified the pegging of an equivalent of US$120 of a pint blood as cost of collection and transfusion processes.
NBSZ spokesperson Ms Esther Massundah said NBSZ does not make any profit from blood. Ms Massundah said blood collection cost includes transport for mobile teams, fuel and blood bags.
“Blood costs approximately US$9,25 per bag. Collection also include clinical consumables such as test tubes, lancets, refreshments, syringes, gloves, eldon cards, forceps and most of these items are imports. Blood collection is done by qualified registered general nurse with further in-house training,” said Ms Massundah.
She said on laboratory tests, once collected, blood goes through five different tests namely; HIV-1 and HIV-2; Hepatitis B; Hepatitis C & Syphilis; all of which cost US$15 per donation.
In addition, she said NBSZ needs at least US$311 000 every two months to import reagents used in the laboratory.
“Donated blood is grouped using an automated blood grouping machine, Neo Iris, and the cost of reagents required is about $176 000 per month. The separation of donated blood is done by qualified scientists who are responsible for processing of components using blood separators, which are imported.
“Further processing of platelets is done using docking devices and pooling kits. Apheresis also requires kits and reagents for processing of single donor platelets — all of which are imported,” she said.
On storage and distribution, Ms Massundah said blood is stored at prescribed temperatures which are monitored daily and the maintenance is outsourced. She said processed blood undergoes quality tests before it is released to hospitals.
“Apart from imports, NBSZ is not exempt to local costs such as fuel; toll gates; employment salaries; rates and maintenance of equipment and vehicles,” she said.
Ms Massundah said in public health institutions, these costs are borne by Government resulting in patients seeking services there, getting blood for free.
Responding to concerns from members of the public after one patient posted their bill amounting to RTGS$9 450 for blood and blood products on social media, Ms Massundah yesterday, said while these products were free in Government institutions, patients receiving treatment from local authorities and private institutions were required to pay as they are not covered under the Government subsidy.
“The cost of producing a safe unit of blood is USD$120, which is recovered at the prevailing bank rate.
“This production cost has been the same for the past five years and this is the very same fee that the Government is paying to the NBSZ for every unit of product that is issued to a patient in the public institutions,” said Ms Massundah.
She said while blood is donated, there was a value chain between donation and transfusion, which brings the cost of blood to USD$120 without any profit.
“There is no profit that is made from blood and the financial statements of NBSZ are publicly available for scrutiny as testament to this,” she said.
The RTGS$9 450 posted on social media included three pints of blood and six units of other blood products.
She, however, said owing to the current strike by doctors in public health institutions, financially disadvantaged patients were forced to seek services from private sector, from which there is a user fee.
Ms Massundah said institutions such as local authorities can engage with the Ministry of Health and Child Care, should they wish their patients to also benefit from this same provision.
She said people who have donated blood for at least 10 times in their lifetime can, with their immediate family members, get free blood or its products regardless of where they are receiving treatment from.