In a disturbing report published in this newspaper, it has come to light that there are approximately 450 illegal blood banks that operate in Punjab, in the utmost irresponsible manner with regard to health and human safety. Indeed, visiting one of these blood banks would give an occupational health and safety personnel from a developed country a figurative heart attack. These blood banks collect blood without screening for disease. They also collect blood from drug addicts without considering that blood laced with drugs can have adverse effects during a transfusion, possibly turning it into a life and death matter or causing further harm to a patient. Desperate family members, whom such illegal blood banks seem to prey upon, have a right to know that the blood they purchase from these entities is free from contamination.
In 2006, the Punjab Blood Transfusion Authority (PBTA) was revived to keep a check on the quality of blood provided to patients. Here we are, 10 years later, with the same concerns before the PBTA was established. It is not sufficient to simply set up a committee to ‘look into the matter’ as we so often encounter when the government is called upon to handle its duties. These are matters that should promptly be addressed in the provincial and National Assembly meetings as they deal with human safety. The Punjab Transfusion of Safe Blood Ordinance, 1999 clearly states that no bank can receive or supply blood without registration and without ensuring the blood is “safe blood” as defined in the release. An immediate step that must be undertaken by the PBTA is to ensure that until blood banks meet health, hygiene and safety standards — which should be spelt out in detail — they must be shut down immediately. As a nation, we already suffer from poor hygiene that gives way to highly contagious and infectious diseases. The dangers of unregulated blood banks will continue to further intensify health maladies unless relevant authorities, including the PBTA, which consists of medical doctors, rereads the 1999 Ordinance and realises its responsibilities.
Published in The Express Tribune, April 11th, 2016.
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