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Safe blood transfusion programme termed conspiracy

Safe blood transfusion programme termed conspiracy

ISLAMABAD: An application initiated from Muzaffarabad making a number of allegations against the management, administration and functioning of the Safe Blood Transfusion Programme (SBTP) has triggered unrest in the health circles.

The letter (copy available with Dawn) alleged that under a conspiracy the regional blood centres (RBCs) were being outsourced.

The bill on the blood regulation has been manipulated and the software prepared for RBCs can be accessed from outside the country.

The Safe Blood Transfusion Programme (SBTP) was started in 2010 with a foreign funding of 15 million Euros (Rs1.77 billion). Under the programme, 10 regional blood transfusion centres (RBCs) were established in the country. Some of the centres have become operational in Islamabad, Punjab, Muzaffarabad while others are in the final stages of establishment.

The letter written by Dr Irum Gilani, the programme manager RBC Muzaffarabad, to the secretary health AJK, alleged that there was a conspiracy behind the project to get blood plasma from Pakistan.

It added that in the West blood plasma fractionation had become a multi-billion dollar industry and obtaining plasma was estimated to represent 40pc of the total plasma fractionation. As there are fewer youth in the West, these nations have been facing problems in getting blood plasma and looking for it in countries where the percentage of the youth was higher.

In the developed countries, over 100 components are separated from the blood plasma to produce medicines.

The application also alleged that the process to outsource the RBCs had already started and efforts were being made to hand over the centres to the private sector.

“A private sector blood centre was inaugurated on October 29, 2013, in Karachi and its director was selected as an expert for the purchase of the Blood Bank Management Information Centre (BBMIS). Though the BBMIS has been set up with the help of servers installed in all the RBCs, its data can be accessed from anywhere within or outside the country,” the application alleged.

However, when contacted, the director of the private blood centre, Dr Saba Jamal, said the software cannot be accessed from outside the country. The software was made in Pakistan and no one should worry about it, she added.

“I got training in the USA and have been working in Pakistan for the last 17 years. My team has prepared the software which prevents human errors,” she claimed.

“Moreover, the allegation that plasma will be exported is wrong because blood collected in Pakistan is considered not safe. So pharmaceutical companies do not buy plasma from Pakistan because of the high ratio of hepatitis virus in it. Even if it is sold, the pharmaceutical firms will impose a condition that the medicines would be used only in Pakistan. So it is incorrect that the West needs plasma from Pakistan,” Dr Saba contended.

In the application, it was alleged that for smooth outsourcing of the RBCs to the private organisations, a campaign had been launched to show that the RBCs were not functioning well.

When contacted, Dr Irum Gilani confirmed that she had written the application.

The director general health AJK, Dr Sardar Mehmood Khan, said the secretary health had sought comments on the application and he was preparing it.

“I can assure you that the RBC Muzaffarabad will not be outsourced. Moreover, we don’t have expertise in the private sector to run the centre,” he said.

In reply to a question, Dr Khan said after he submits the comments, the higher authority can also hold an inquiry into the matter but he does not think that there was anything wrong in the AJK setup.

The national coordinator for the SBTB, Dr Hasan Abbas Zaheer, told Dawn that it was the responsibility of provinces to run the RBCs and take any decision.

“The government of Punjab has decided to outsource the RBCs but the process is not finalised. Similarly, the Sindh government has been considering running the RBCs in partnership with the public sector. But it will take two months to implement the decision,” he said.

“In KP and Balochistan, the RBCs will be run by the provincial governments. Similarly, the RBC Muzaffarabad will be run by the government while the centre in Gilgit is yet to be completed as there is a funding issue,” he said.

He added: “It is incorrect that the software of the RBCs can be accessed from outside the country. But even if it is accessed, there will not be any secret information. How information about the availability of blood bags can be important for any country. Moreover, the software is purchased after a due process,” he said.

Published in Dawn, April 23rd, 2016

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