Holiday accidents: Citizens worried about high blood costs in Zimbabwe

Lovemore Lubinda

Anotida Bengere (33) of Gweru is an unemployed and worried young man; he cannot afford 3 pints required for his father who was the breadwinner, recently involved in a road accident and is admitted at a local hospital in the town.

“Paying US$135/ pint is just too much, my father needs 3 pints. I now watch helplessly as my father is dying.

“What worries the most is that these guys get the blood free of charge. I once donated blood when I was at school,” he complains.

Holidays have now customarily been associated with the rising demand for blood and at times this had seen the supply side outpaced.

A lot of people have complained over the high cost of blood, their bone of contention had been the fact that it is donated free of charge by donors mainly school children.

Blood has no substitute and is in constant demand for women suffering from haemorrhage during or after childbirth, children suffering from severe anaemia due to malaria and malnutrition, as well as victims of trauma and accidents.

Though the Zimbabwe the National Blood Service Zimbabwe (NBSZ) which is the sole institution that receives, process, and store donated blood for future use, has issued statements indicating that it had enough blood in its stocks, concerns have been raised over the high cost of the life saving liquid.

A unit of blood is going for $135 in government hospitals and $161 in private hospitals, the charges that are beyond the reach to many.

Be that as it may, this year’s Christmas accidents have hit a record high with 106 road accidents registered on the day, as compared to the same period last year’s 81 reflecting a rise by 25.

The above figures paint a gloomy picture, taking into account that the festive season is still on until New Year’s Day. Whenever such casualties happen, there is a rise in demand for blood transfusion.

NBSZ, Chief Executive Officer, Lucy Marowa explained in an interview with this publication that at one time, her organisation was able to charge a reduced fee of $80 because of grants from government and resource partners that chipped in consistently.

“Owing to the declining in grants received from the government we have resorted to cost recovery mode,” she said.

Meanwhile, according to Ministry of Health and Child Care, Acting Permanent Secretary, Dr Gibson Mhlanga the government is fully aware that the user fees of blood are high.

He concurs that since 2013, grants from government have not been sufficient and this has resulted NBSZ in reverting back to full cost recovery of $135 per unit of blood, to ensure that it has effective quality management system in place that meets the required standards.

Blood transfusion is a multi step process with risk of error in each process from the donor recruitment, collecting, processing, and testing of donor and patient samples, hence the need for extra care and cooperation.

The acting Permanent Secretary says the good thing is that Zimbabwe has been able to maintain a consistent and safe blood supply and efficient blood service programme that is emulated regionally and internationally.

“Efforts are in progress to address the issue of funding as well as to continuously improve efficiency of processes, thereby bringing down the blood user fees,” Dr Mhlanga says.

Zimbabwe subscribes to the World Health Assembly resolution, (WHA 28:72) which urge all WHO member states to promote and support the establishment of sustainable blood transfusion services. And the country has been commemorating World Blood Donor Day since 2004.

The day is celebrated on 14 June every year and the 2016 edition is being commemorated under the theme ‘Blood Connects Us All’ with great emphasis being given to blood donors and the importance of giving blood.