Many Nigerians have been exposed to risk of health hazards and toxins as hospitals in the country have allegedly been found liable for transfusion of expired blood to sick patients.
The National Assembly had passed a Bill sponsored by Hon. Abbas Tajudeen (APC, Kaduna) recently signed into law by President Muhammadu Buhari, which culminated into the heralding of the Nigeria Blood Services Commission.
On Thursday, the Director-General of the Nigeria Blood Services Commission, Dr Omale Joseph, while briefing journalists at the House of Representatives on the heels of the establishment of the new Commission, disclosed that many hospitals are culpable of administering expired blood to their patients.
Emphasising the need for sanity in blood utilisation and administration in the Country, the DG disclosed that many officials in hospitals across the Country are prone to sharp practices in the administration of blood.
The DG who averred that the safety span of blood for administration stands not later than 35 days, said blood after the duration was meant to be disposed.
He lamented, however, that rather than disposing same, health workers in many health facilities go ahead to administer expired blood kept in fridge.
“A unit of blood that is taken out expires between 30 and 35 days. If you don’t transfuse this blood within that period and it gets to 35 days, it has to be thrown away. But people still keep them in their fridge and transfuse them,” he disclosed.
He mentioned that the unprofessional act constitutes some of the anomalies the Commission would address in the health sector, adding that efforts would be intensified to ensure availability of blood for medical purposes across the six geopolitical zones in the Country.
“These are some of the things we are going to regulate. We are already regulating. We are also working to a point that blood will be everywhere in Nigeria. And one of the things we are doing is to initiate what we call the one million safe blood initiatives,” he said.
According to him, special emphasis will be concentrated on such areas as Lagos, Port Harcourt, and Kano where demand for blood are on the high side.
“Based on the Act we have now, we are trying to ensure, working on our people to make sure that at each point in time, Nigeria has a minimum of safe blood place.
“And this blood, we are going to warehouse them in the six geopolitical zones with additional attention to Port Harcourt, Lagos, and Kano so that any part of the country where blood is required in large quantity, we can always mobilize from that centre to where it is needed. There is no need to say we don’t have blood,” he said.
Speaking on other advantages of the Act establishing the Commission, he said further, “Another area the Act would help is the issue of increasing the outlets where people can get blood.
“For example, you rarely get blood banks outside major hospitals. Most of the states are only making do with only one or two blood banks.
“The establishment of the commission would ensure that not only State governments and their big tertiary hospitals would have blood banks, but every local government should have at least a blood bank, so that people in need would be able to access it easily and cheaply.”
The DG who frowned against the administration of blood donation in the Country, lamented that against sincerity, selling donated blood meant to be kept in blood banks has become a norm, with commercialising same for charges ranging from at least N20,000 and above.
Omale who appealed to Nigerians to cultivate the culture of donating blood emphasized the benefits of same, stating that “blood donation is necessary to keep one healthy. Once you donate blood, new cells come up to replenish the one you’ve donated, because blood produced by the body expires over time and is reabsorbed by the body.
“But when removed from the body through donation, it gives room for new blood cells which makes the donor more healthy.”
House of Rep. member, Hon Tajudeen Abbas representing Zaria Federal Constituency, Kaduna State who sponsored the bill while disclosing that President Buhari has assented to the bill to establish the Commission, said the development “is a very important milestone achieved in the medical sector of this country.”
According to him, “Before the assent of the President, the industry had been fragmented, unregulated and not too coordinated,” a condition he said has informed a lot of inconsistencies.
“Some of them was that the blood sold are not of the right quality and the recipient of some types of blood instead of getting cured for what they were given would end up having some other kind of diseases.
“There was a baseline survey that was done in 2015 which revealed that the total requirement of Nigeria on blood is about 1.5 million pints. Based on the research it was established that 0.5 million pints was achieved at the end of each year and that translates to just one-third of our total requirements.
“We believe that such kind of paucity of donations of blood is partially so because there has not been an enabling environment and enabling act that would give the agency responsible to go out and look for donors.
“At the same time, that survey further revealed that of the 0.5 million pints that we are able to get, only 25 per cent of it is coming through voluntary sources,” he said.
On the donation of blood, he further added that “75 per cent of it is commercialised.”
“So people would come to give their blood and you pay them. And you know the implication of those who are giving their blood for payment. It means the recipient at the end of the day would also be made to pay much more,” he posited.