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Blood banks run dry in Bengal poll fever

By Anurag Dey,

Kolkata : With social clubs, organisations and political parties deeply engrossed in the poll jamboree, election fever has taken its toll on blood collection, triggering an acute shortage of supply in West Bengal’s blood banks.

Bengal blood banks get more than 80 percent of their supply through voluntary collection. However, the organisation of blood donation camps has taken a hit this year as most of the people who take the initiative are busy on the campaign trail.

According to Apurba Ghosh, general secretary of the West Bengal Voluntary Blood Donors’ Forum, most of the blood banks are running short of supply and only 25 percent of the state’s monthly requirement of nearly 85,000 units is being collected.

“During summers, blood collection dips by nearly 30 percent but the problem has been compounded by the polls. Clubs, youth wings of political parties which organise major chunks of donation camps are busy with the polls,” Ghosh, also a member of the National Blood Transfusion Council, told IANS.

The acute blood shortage led to an unprecedented scene in the Institute of Haematology & Transfusion Medicine (IHTM) of the Calcutta Medical College and Hospital when doctors, nurses and other hospital staff had to donate blood to save Thalassemia patients worst hit by the crisis.

“The crisis this time around is so acute that doctors and other staff had to donate blood to save the patients. But then our drive will not stop here. There is an urgent need to ensure that blood donation camps are regularly organised irrespective of the polls. So we are trying to raise awareness in that regard,” haematologist Prantar Chakrabarti of IHTM told IANS.

According the the State Blood Transfusion Council, West Bengal’s 109 blood banks including 74 government-run, collected 698,353 units of blood during April 2012-Jan 2013 of which 83.57 percent or 583,613 units were voluntary collection through 10,661 donation camps.

Ghosh said because of the crisis, blood banks are seeking replacement from patients which has been creating issues.

“With blood banks seeking as many as three replacements for every unit of blood, outstation patients especially those coming from Bangladesh are finding it difficult to arrange donors,” said Ghosh, adding that touts have entered the scene who are charging hefty amounts from patients for arranging donors.

While nearly 65 percent of the blood collected is used in the city, the crisis is felt all over the state.

“The crisis is being faced by all blood banks across the state and they are compelled to seek replacements from patients to keep the stock intact. It is paramount for the blood banks to have a minimum stock of blood,” Midnapore Medical College & Hospital principal T.K. Ghosh said.

Blood banks across the state, including the Central Blood Bank, have admitted of supply shortage.

Talking about the crisis, Apurba Ghosh said there was an urgent need to frame rules to ensure blood donation camps are exempted from the ambit of the election model code of conduct (MCC).

“Afraid of MCC violation, political parties and their youth wings, which are instrumental in organising a large number of camps, are not taking any initiative. The need is for government guidelines making such camps free from the MCC’s ambit,” said the man who has been working in the field of blood transfusion for more than three decades.

Chakrabarty also seconded Ghosh’s views, saying along with the government, members of civil society should work in tandem to ensure the donation camps are organised all the year round so that such a crisis can be avoided.

(Anurag Dey can be contacted [email protected])