| Commercial blood donor racket
busted in Govandi
Even If One Contaminated Bottle Enters The System There Is Cause For
TIMES NEWS NETWORK
Mumbai: It is an alarming diagnosis: contaminated blood could be circulating
in the city’s healthcare system through a little-known blood bank
located on Govandi Station Road.
This came to light when Ambaji Blood Bank & Blood Components was
raided by a Food and Drug Administration (FDA) team led by commissioner
A Ramakrishnan himself on Wednesday night. “It’s a C-grade blood bank
and we have already cancelled its licence,’’ FDA commissioner A Ramakrishnan
The FDA and Trombay police teams that conducted the raid believe that
people — most of them repeat donors—were being offered Rs 150 to donate
more than twice the prescribed volume of blood and, worse, none of
the mandatory screening tests were being conducted.
“These men were not even asked the basic screening questions of whether
they have fever or taken medication in the past 24 hours,’’ said Parmesh
Kadam of the Jan Jagriti Samajik Sanstha, the voluntary organisation
that had alerted the FDA about the dubious blood bank.
Screening tests to establish anaemia and the dreaded blood-related
contaminants — viruses like HIV and Hepatitis C — too were not being
done, he alleged. “The total screening operation can cost Rs 800 per
person, and we are sure this bank didn’t take such precautions,’’
he added. Corroborating his point, sub-inspector Pradeep Wani of the
Trombay police said, “We have arrested eight professional donor and
two technicians of the blood bank on the charge of releasing blood
without proper checks.’’ The police said they would conduct blood
tests to establish if the donors had any infectious diseases.
The operation began at 8 pm and ended at 4 am, with the FDA sealing
the premises. A fortnight ago, the Jan Jagruti Samajik Sanstha noticed
a motorbike rider regularly picking up certain individuals from Kamraj
Nagar, Ramanbhai Colony, Ghatkopar East. “We asked around and found
out that he paid Rs 150 to people who donated blood to Ambaji Blood
Bank,’’ said Kadam.
The NGO then kept a watch on the blood bank and noticed that a technician
took charge after 5 pm and a steady stream of people made a beeline
for the bank. “Most of these people seemed poor and in illhealth,’’
The NGO helped a donor who was on the verge of fainting after walking
out of the blood bank and got out the whole story. “The government
prescribes that blood should be donated only once in three months,
but here were people who had donated twice a week if not more,’’ said
Vilas Rupwate from the NGO. “We found one person who claimed he had
donated blood six times in as many days.’’ Most of those arrested
had blue-black marks on their forearm that indicated repeated jabs,
they said. “The blood bank obviously had a list of regulars who would
be picked or invited on certain days,’’ they added.
“Most of these guys were underweight even though the National Blood
Policy clearly states that donors should be over 48 kg.’’
The owners of the blood bank, Dr Sharad and wife Bhavna Khara, are
out of the country, said the police. Their second blood bank, Ambica,
in Ghatkopar W too has been sealed by the FDA.
Blood Banks In Mumbai
The city has around 62 blood banks—22 belonging to public healthcare
institutions, 12 to private trusts and trust-run hospitals and the
remaining are private stand-alone operators. While the first two categories
have been authorised to organise voluntary blood donation camps, the
standalone camp cannot. “It is a wonder that people set up such blood
banks at all. The investment for a blood bank is huge, running into
tens of lakhs, and a stand-alone bank can, at best, get 2,000 donors
a year. Even if they charge users a whopping Rs 3,000 per bottle of
blood, it just doesn’t make economic sense,’’ says a public health
Vinay Shetty, who helps organise blood donation drives for recognised
and government blood banks, says it is a disaster even if one bottle
of contaminated blood makes it to the healthcare system.
It is to avoid such disasters that the State Blood Transfusion Council
and the FDA had issued a notice to these stand-alone banks last year
to either align themselves with reputed hospitals or shut shop. “We
have given these people about a year to do so, and we will soon start
cracking the whip,’’ said a government official who doesn’t want to
FDA commissioner Ramakrishnan promises more corrective action in the
next 15 days. But the main problem, he said, is the fact that licences
for blood banks are given out by the central government. “Why should
the Centre then not monitor such units?’’ he asked.