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25 July 2017

Failing health system; voluntary donors forced to pay for blood

The painful death of a third-year student of the Catholic University last Saturday, has exposed a systemic failure in the administration of healthcare.

The 21-year-old voluntary blood donor was admitted to the Ghana Atomic Energy Commission (GAEC) Hospital in the Ga East Municipality for an undisclosed ailment and needed three pints of blood to survive.

Medical authorities gave her father, Adolf Lawson, also a voluntary donor, a request form to go to The Community Hospital (TCH), Ashongman, for the body fluid. 

Authorities there could not help because they had limited stock which had already been cross-matched for patients who had been sent to the theatre for surgery.

A statement signed by TCH Assistant General Manager, Storms Wells and copied to Myjoyonline.com Monday said: “On the 22nd of July 2017, a gentleman approached our Laboratory with a request from the Ghana Atomic Energy Commission Hospital for three pints of blood”.

“He presented a Blood Donor Certificate to justify why the request must be prioritised. Unfortunately for us, we had only a few pints of blood already cross-matched for theatre patients,” the TCH statement said.

Mr. Lawson was subsequently directed to Government facilities at Amasaman, Achimota or Korle-Bu. He managed to get the needed quantity from the Achimota Hospital but at a cost of GHȻ140.

Desperate to save his daughter’s life, Mr. Lawson disclosed on the ‘Dwaso Nsɛm’  Morning Show on Adom FM Tuesday, July 25, 2017, he had to borrow GHȻ100 from the taxi driver who took him there to make up for the fee being demanded by the Achimota Hospital authorities.

He got back to the GAEC Hospital only to be informed that his daughter had passed on.

This heart-wrenching incident ignited the debate as to whether it is worth responding to calls for volunteers to donate blood to stock the National Blood Bank, when the donor does not enjoy any privilege or preferential treatment in time of need.

Volunteers donating blood at a Joy FM organised blood bonation campaign

Public Relations Officer at the National Blood Transfusion Service, Stephen Adei Baah said anybody requiring blood from their bank is charged a processing fee not less than GHȻ85 and additional GHȻ15 for cross-matching. 

This means one would have to pay not less than GHȻ100 to procure blood from the National bank at Korle-Bu.

The absence of a law regulating their operations also means medical facilities, whether government owned or privately owned, are at liberty to charge any amount deemed ‘reasonable’ for processing blood in their stock.

The only privilege the donors enjoy, according to Mr. Baah is that the Service will do everything possible to ensure the donor gets the blood needed.

But the processing fee would still have to be paid even including staff at the Blood Bank.

He said they were forced to increase the processing fee which used to be GHȻ25 in order to generate funds to support their operations since government support is not forthcoming as it used to.

According to him, even the blood bags used for storing the fluid, is not available for them at the Central Medical Stores, hence the decision to increase the processing fee to raise revenue internally to finance the supply of the bags and other accessories.

The National Blood Service, Ghana is an agency under the Ghana Ministry of Health.

The mandate of the National Blood Service, Ghana is to ensure an effective and coordinated national approach to the provision of safe, adequate and efficacious, blood and blood products, making it timely, accessible and affordable to all patients requiring blood transfusion therapy in both public and private health care institutions in the country. 

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