Attempts to foil Health Minister’s assurance; only the rich to get safe blood!

Subhas Chandra Pattanayak

In reply to an adjournment motion moved by Opposition Chief Whip Prasad Harichandan on 1st September 2012, Health Minister Dr. Damodar Raut had assured that Orissa would adopt NAT PCR system to ensure appropriate screening of blood to avoid AIDS from transfusion.

A boy of only 17 months was found infected with AIDS by accepting transfusion of blood obtained from Muncipal Hospital Blood Bank, Bhubaneswar. The news was broke by orissamatters.com in 8 July 2012 and Sri Harichndan had very ably brought the matter to the attention of the Assembly.

Dr. Raut in his reply noted that people of Orissa have made monumental mark in blood donation and from 126076 units in 2000; blood collection has reached 307022 units in 2011. People’s eagerness to donate blood to save the lives of fellow citizens needs be equally honored by the government’s readiness to supply safe blood to needing patients through proper screening. Therefore, Dr. Raut said, in a meeting on 22 August 2012 the Government had consulted all the Blood Bank Directors and Officers in a conference and had taken a decision to jettison the rapid test method of screening and adopt ELISA method to screen out AIDS virus in the Blood Banks.

As Harichandan pointed out that ELISA is not the latest technology to screen AIDS virus, but NAT PCR is, the Minister had appreciated the position and had assured to adopt the latest method; for nothing is more valuable than human life and moreover, as patients’ confidence in blood banks would diminish if AIDS virus escapes the deficient screening. He however had declared that the method being costly, the State would start with four major blood banks: one each attached to the three Government Medical Colleges and the Capital Hospital Blood Bank. The facility would be extended to all the Blood Banks of Orissa in course of time, he had assured the Assembly.

The Budget of Health department placed in and awaiting approval of the Assembly has made a token provision for replacement of ELISA with NAT PCR in the aforesaid four Blood Banks.

But, the Finance department has planted a rider that the cost of NAT PCR screening should be collected from the patients. If the rider is not dropped, only the rich will benefit; because the poor patients cannot afford the screening cost.

The present Finance Minister was the Minister of Health when deficient screening through old method of ELISA had infested the seventeen months old child with AIDS and the Orissa High Court had punished the state Government with cash penalty of Rs.3 lakhs for supply of HIV infested blood to the boy without perfect screening. When he is the Finance minister, his department is asking the Health department to impose such a heavy cost on poor patients on accounts of NAT PCR that it will never be possible for them to get pure blood through perfect screening!

Should the poor people have no right to safe blood? Should the latest and the safest NAT PCR screening for which the government in the Health department has put budgetary provisions on the anvil of the Assembly be available only to the rich?

Should the Finance department be allowed to foil the most welcome welfare proposal of the Health department?

Should the Assembly allow its own anxiety for safe blood to patients be steered into benefit of the moneyed men alone?

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