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Kagwe dissolves team to track supply, use of donated blood

Reproductive Health - By Hillary Orinde

Bags of blood donated by volunteers. There is currently no single unit of blood in the country’s major reserves. [File, Standard]

The battle for control of the all-important Kenya National Blood Transfusion Service (KNBTS) is far from over following the removal of the team to oversee its operations barely one month after it assumed office.

Health Cabinet Secretary Mutahi Kagwe yesterday dissolved the national advisory committee to oversee the supply and utilisation of blood and blood products in the country.

Kagwe said the committee was no longer tenable following a court order obtained by Dr Fridah Govedi reinstating her as the head of cash-strapped KNBTS.

A paediatrician by training and former CEO of Pumwani Hospital, Dr Govedi has sat at the helm of the blood agency since August 2019. She was recently transferred from KNBTS, a move she challenged in court.

"On May 4, 2020, Dr Fridah Govedi, the immediate Head of Department of Blood Transfusion, Tissue and Human Organ Transplant obtained ex-parte orders in the employment and labour relations court reinstating her to her previous position in the Ministry and the application is being heard on May 14," Mutahi wrote to the 10-member committee.

He went on: "In the circumstances, your appointment to the National Advisory Committee on Blood and Blood Products has and is hereby cancelled with immediate effect."

The CS added that he had revoked the April 9 gazette notice of the appointments to avoid a functional overlap in light of the court matter.

The advisory committee chaired by former Kenya Red Cross Society Secretary General Abass Gullet took office in the backdrop of dry blood banks and reports of corruption, mismanagement, staff apathy and limited resources riddling KNBTS.

In recent years, there have emerged reports of illegal export of blood to neighbouring countries, supported by a thriving black market run by well-connected individuals.

The problems at the agency began when the US withdrew a 850 million a year funding that sustained up to 80 per cent of its operations, including support staff.

The advisory team was expected to produce a legislative and regulatory report setting out rules, regulations, orders, and other legislation required to give effect the proposed reforms including a Bill of Parliament on the proposed Kenya National Blood Transfusion Service.

It was also to advise the Health Ministry on matters partnering to blood supply, facilitate knowledge management and the availability of information and data on blood and blood products among other roles.

The members included Dr Kibet Peter Shikuku, Dr Elizabeth Wala, Bharat Thakrar, Dr Patricia Murugami, Prof Bitange Ndemo and Joe Wang'endo. Charles Rombo, Kiprono Chepkok and Dr Thuranira Kaugiria were the joint secretaries.

Health CS Mutahi Kagwe has thanked them for "the enthusiasm and resolve to serve in the committee" and for volunteering their time and energy for the role.

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