PATIENTS seeking blood transfusion and blood related services in public health institutions have been dealt a heavy blow following a month long doctor’s strike which has left most public health institutions without adequate staff to mann various hospitals divisions.
By Michael Gwarisa
In an interview with HealthTimes, National Blood Service Zimbabwe (NBSZ) Public Affairs Manager, Ms Esther Massundah said blood in all public health institutions was still free but the prevailing health crisis which has been exacerbated by the doctors incapacitation has exposed poor patients to exorbitant charges for blood and blood products in private health institutions.
With this industrial strike by doctors, some patients who are not on medical aid and those who cannot afford to be admitted in private hospitals may now be forced to seek services at private health institutions because there is very limited service in the public health institutions.
“So you find that as a result, some patients are now being forced to go into these institutions. However, as NBSZ, we have special cases where people approach us in their individual capacity making a plea to us for help. Maybe they cannot afford or maybe they need a unit of blood, we have a budget set aside for our Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR),” said Ms Massundah.
She added that the NBSZ only assist on a case by case basis and recently they helped a 13 year old girl who was diagnosed of acute aplastic anemia in 2017 whose family was struggling to pay for blood.
“If you are a blood donor, NBSZ has a blood donor benefit policy in place and if you meet the criteria as stated in the policy, you benefit from the policy even if you are admitted in a private health institution you can get blood. We have had so many blood donors who have benefited from this policy, they are educated and informed about it.”
Meanwhile, the NBSZ has emphasized that blood was still free contrary to social media reports making rounds.
“We saw a receipt that was circulating on social media of a payment of blood for blood and blood products that were paid for over the weekend. As NBSZ, we wish to clarify the issue in terms of the user fees for blood because that is where the issue is and it remains to be a contentious issue.
“The costs to produce a safe unit of blood, we are looking right from the beginning from the time the blood is collected out there all the way into the value chain. It costs US$120 to produce a unit of blood. We are looking at even the consumables that go into a unit of blood that is from the blood bag, the tests kits and everything and it’s been at that price since five years (2016) ago and what we normally do is the user fee is set in consultation with the ministry of health.”
She added that since last year, patients have been getting blood and blood services for free as long as they are admitted in public health institutions and non private wards. However, institutions such as council clinics and hospitals were not covered under the free blood initiative.