Subhas Chandra Pattanayak
“Donation of blood is a noble work. In order to achieve this avowed objective all necessary safeguards must be taken while collecting, testing, storing and supplying blood. Otherwise, instead of saving the life, the contaminated blood would take the life. It is not disputed that during window period, unless the special test known as Antigen Test is conducted through Polymer Chain Reaction (PCR) method, the virus cannot be identified. Therefore, the Government must ensure that in all Blood Banks the Polymer Chain Reaction (PCR) method is available to identify the virus of HIV during window period”.
Thus said the High Court of Orissa a year ago on 28 July 2011 in W.P. (C) No.133441 of 2009 while asking the State Government to pay the writ petitioner Rs.3 lakhs as cash compensation against deficient screening of blood without using the NAT PCR method, as a result of which, the 17 months old child of the petitioner was infected with AIDS.
By saying, “the Government MUST ensure that in all Blood Banks the Polymer Chain Reaction (PCR) method is available to identify the virus of HIV during window period”, the High Court has made it an unavoidable must for the Government to use the NAT PCR screening method in all the Blood Banks in Orissa.
It is a blatant contempt of Court to delay implementation of this mandamus.
The Orissa Government, therefore, had taken up the matter in a specifically held “Meeting on Implementation of NAT PCR in Blood Banks” under Chairmanship of Dr. Pramod Meherda, IAS, MD, National Rural Health Mission and Project Director of Orissa State AIDS Control Society.
Members present in meeting were: Dr. Mangala Prasad Mohanty (Honorary Secretary of Indian Red Cross Society – Orissa State branch), Kamalakanta Dash (FA, OSACS), Dr. P. K. Acharya (Additional Project Director, OSACS), Dr. Sudhir Kumar Ghosh (Professor and HoD, Microbiology Dept, VSS Medical College, Burla), Dr. Banojini Parida (Professor and HoD, Microbiology Dept, MKCG Medical College, Berhampur), Dr. Pritilata Panda (Associate Professor, Microbiology Dept, MKCG Medical College, Berhampur), Hrushikesh Mohapatra (Drugs Controller, Orissa), Dr. Bijay Kumar Swain (Joint Director, Health Services (T.B.Cell) Orissa), Dr. Jyotsna Patnaik (D.D., STI and JD, BS), Dr. Bimocha Pragna Pati (Associate Professor, Microbiology Dept, SCB Medical College, Cuttack), Dr. L. N. Hati (Ex-Director, State Blood Transfusion Council, Orissa), Dr. Chhanda Charan Sahu (Blood Bank Officer, BCSU, Anugul), Dr. Debashish Mishra (Director, Model Blood Bank, Capital Hospital, Bhubaneswar) and Dr. Benudhar Satapathy (Director, Central Red Cross Blood Bank, Cuttack).
This special meeting for the specific purpose of implementation of the High Court orders was held in the conference hall of OSACS on 25 February 2012 after collection of various documents and medical literature. The minutes thereof records, “the matter was placed before the committee with all the supporting documents like Hon’ble High Court’s judgment, correspondence letter to NACO, Transfusion Medicines Technical Manual, Screening of donated blood for Transfusion, Recommendation of WHO on Transmissible Infection, Proceedings of Karnataka Government on NAT PCR and supply order along with purchase of All India Institute of Medical Sciences, New Delhi”.
This specific meeting, actively participated by subject matter specialist noted supra, unanimously decided to implement the High Court order as that was the most unavoidable and appropriate way to save the people from the transfusion-transmissible-infections(TTIs).
Its resolution said,
“All the Committee members went through the documents and also verified the possible grey zone documents of each individual disease (TTIs) and also went through the document from the website i.e. Journal of Association of Microbiologists, USA. After thorough discussion on NAT PCR technology, the Committee unanimously recommended that the NAT PCR technology, which is the latest testing facility, need to be introduced for screening of blood units to reduce the grey zone period of transfusion- transmissible-infections like HIV-I, II, Hepatitis B and HCV, as it is the latest and foremost technology available in India”.
But, despite this recommendation, the State Government failed to appreciate the urgency of its implementation. We exposed this menacing lack of concern for human life in these pages on 8 July 2012; and then a new case, seeking redressal in TTIs, gained cognizance of the High Court. This prompted the Government to remember the February meeting.
When the February meeting had unanimously recommended for adoption of NAT PCR method for screening of blood to eliminate the possibility of TTIs like HIV-I, II, Hepatitis B and HCV, it had constituted a sub-committee under chairmanship of the Special Secretary of Health to determine the manner of its execution. That sub-committee, after lapse of long five months, met on July 24.
But surprisingly, the D.M.E.T., Orissa, though not a member of that sub-committee, attended the meeting and tried to foil the High Court order with misleading emphasis on continuance of the outdated and deficient methods of blood screening presently in vogue in Orissa.
Our sources say, the meeting ended with no decision, notwithstanding how harmful be that to health of the people.