AN unanticipated upsurge in blood demand is looming at the back of government’s recent move to slash the blood prices from $80 to $50 per unit at the beginning of this year.
By Michael Gwarisa
The development also comes at the back of a crisis whereby the Blood bank coffers are fast running dry of blood group O amidst indications that not more than 52% of Zimbabwe’s population belong to that blood group.
Briefing Journalists this morning, National Blood Services of Zimbabwe (NBSZ) Chief Executive Officer (CEO) Ms Lucy Marowa said the blood bank missed its blood collection target of 65 000 last year and the recent move to slash blood prices could also have an elastic push on demand.
“Looking at our collections, last year 2017, we had a target at 65 000 units, however we narrowly missed the target and only managed to collect about 63 000units. We are cognisant of the fact that our user fees have come down and this might result in greater demand for the product.
“I will emphasise that blood is not elastic, therefore it does not mean that if it becomes cheap then there is going to be a doubling or tripling of the need for blood but i am saying that there might be an increase because those that genuinely need it can afford it and can be able to pay for the blood.
“Cognisant of this fact, this calls upon us as NBSZ to be more prepared that our blood banks throughout the country are well equipped and that we have enough stocks at any given time,” said Ms Marowa.
She added that they have revised their collection target upwards, from 70 000 to a new estimation which is yet to be shared.
“We also want to assure the public that at any time, we are normally able to provide the blood group A, B and Blood group AB. The major challenge has been in providing blood group O. You may or may not be aware that blood group O is present in at least 52% of the Zimbabwe’s population.
“This places a strain on the supply of the blood, it comes in and to moves out faster, that’s why we are appealing to all donors to come forward and donate. The rest of the blood groups we have enough stocks. We have less than one day’s supply of blood group O at any given time”
She added that the issue of blood and blood user fees has been topical over the past few year particularly post the multi-currency implementation in the country and they were working tirelessly to ensure blood is affordable to everyone.
“As NBSZ, we have always said, yes we know that the blood is unaffordable to the ordinary person in the streets but we were also giving our side of the story to say that whatever we are charging is the same as what goes into the production of that unit of blood.
“We have tried our best as an organization to look at how we can reduce the blood user fees from what they were in 2015 which was $135 for an ordinary patient. Through our own efforts we managed to bring down the blood user fee up to $100 in 2017,” she added.
She also applauded government for stepping in with a $4.7 million subsidy and emphasized that the $50 per unit was only open to public health institutions.
“We would like to bring to you attention that we have had government stepping in and also subsidizing this blood. Throughout the end of last year it was brought down to $80 by the minister. Through his initiative, we have received a subsidy of $4.7 million dollars that came into out accounts at the beginning of the year.
“The net effect of that subsidy is to bring down the blood user fee to $50 per unit for public patients, there have been no effect on the private sector and I will emphasise that we continue to recoup almost 100% from the private sector which we are currently charging $120. But to the public person out there any public institution, the user fee is $50 of blood per unit of blood.
She added that a person may visit the hospital and be levied a $20 user fee for a cross match which is done for both the donor and the recipient to make sure there is no reaction even though efforts are under way to scrap off the fee.
Meanwhile, Health and Child Care Permanent Secretary, Major General, Dr Gerald Gwinji said government would work hand in hand with NBSZ to ensure blood is affordable to everyone at any given time through providing subsidies and various means of support.
“The basic tenant of setting up a transfusion service is to ensure that blood from a donor gets to the recipient safely but there is a lot technicalities involved in the process.
“There has been a lot of outcry in terms of the blood prices and this is what as ministry we have always wanted to address. There is however a costs involved and someone has to bear that cost and this is where government is coming through. We have injected funding to ensure blood goes down, we want it to go down even further by mid-year,” said Dr Gwinji.