LAHORE: As many as 80,000 people have contracted hepatitis, while HIV/AIDS is rampant in the province. To combat the spread of these ailments, the Punjab Health Department has decided to establish a centralised pathological lab in the city with state-of-the-art equipment, The Express Tribune learnt on Tuesday.
Last week, in a meeting at the Civil Secretariat, Health Minister Khawaja Salman Rafique ordered a roadmap and working paper to establish the centralised laboratory as soon as possible.
“We have to send the blood samples of Congo virus, HIV, hepatitis and dengue for screening to the National Institute of Health in Islamabad and this takes a lot of time,” he commented “The centralised lab will also counter the illegal trade of blood.”
Gravity of the situation
At all major healthcare facilities of the province, including Jinnah hospital, Mayo hospital, Services hospital and General hospital, hundreds of illegal blood banks are operating.
Some are even established in single rooms. “It is all happening under the nose of the government and anyone can purchase blood from these labs,” commented Dr Salman Kazmi of Mayo hospital. He said these banks collected blood from camps or even procured it from drug addicts. “This is public knowledge, but our government seems to be unaware of this lucrative practice,” he said.
Dr Salman said over 450 unauthorised blood banks are functioning across the province. “Unfortunately, there is no law to regulate them,” he said. He added potentially unsafe blood is being sold by such banks for up to Rs3,000.
He stressed these establishments were involved in the unregulated trade of reagents, blood bags and kits, spreading diseases like hepatitis and HIV/AIDS etc.
He said there are as many as 80,000 hepatitis patients and the government seemed unable to counter the disease.
The doctor added the government ought to seal these dubious blood banks since it was largely established that only voluntary donors are safe. “At least they should be regulated.”
A health department spokesperson, while talking to The Express Tribune, said the main purpose of the centralised pathological lab was to develop better blood screening facilities as hundreds of facilities were not following standard protocol.
“After establishing a lab of the Blood Transfusion Authority (BTA), we will counter the transfer of unhealthy blood, which has become a lucrative and illegal business,” he said.
Published in The Express Tribune, April 5th, 2017.
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