Blood donor services are a unit of medical laboratory services, which are considered security installations.
This is as per the World Health Assembly and World Health Organisation guidelines due to the global threat of biological weapons.
In tropical countries, blood is mainly used in the management of emergencies like life-threatening anemia and acute blood loss.
In many countries, there is the high risk of transmitting human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) and other transmissible infections in blood and blood products, especially if blood is not screened properly for infectious agents. Blood transfusion also carries the risk of immunological adverse reactions.
In recent years, concern for the safety of blood supplies, scarcity of blood, rising cost of supplies and need for standardisation and accountability have led to better organised and resourced national blood transfusion services (NBTS) in some countries.
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In several countries, restricting NBTS with an integrated national blood policy has resulted in county hospitals being supplied with blood that has been screened and typed.
Health authorities develop national blood policies and are actively involved in the recruitment and retention of voluntary non-paid blood donors. Assistance is also provided by partners in promoting the appropriate use of blood, blood products and blood substitutes, voluntary non-remunerated blood donation, processing and storage.
Donated blood requires screening for infectious. It is these infectious diseases that make medical laboratories where blood donor services are domiciled security installations so that proper handling and monitoring is done on donated blood.
Blood itself has several components that can be transfused in aliquots to several recipients. This makes the risk of bioweapons real.
The enactment of a law to take care of blood and blood components transfusion in Kenya will go a long way towards strengthening national preparedness and response to this threat. However, amid the efforts to level the Covid-19 curve in the country, some critical health matters seem to be falling through the cracks.
Last year, the US president announced cuts in funding through CDC and one of the institutions affected severely here was our blood transfusion service which had been funded to the tune of Sh9 billion from the August 7, 1998 bombing when the support started.
Health Cabinet Secretary Mutahi Kagwe says there has been malpractices in the service and had since invited the Directorate of Criminal Investigation to scrutinise the systems.
While all this was happening Murang’a Woman Rep Sabina Chege was rightfully proposing a Bill in Parliament to delink the service from the Ministry of Health and make it a State corporation. Medical laboratory officers world over have been handling blood transfusion matters because they are trained to deal with the same.
As a profession, we feel duty-bound to advise against legislating on only one aspect of transfusion without wide consultation as it is a component of medical laboratory service. Before enacting this law, the chairperson should be one versed with safety of blood as a function of the medical laboratory profession. The position of medical director isn’t necessary. The functions for this position are devolved, thus making it unfeasible.
A blood transfusion service is a 24-hour function in patient care and is thus managed by the health professionals within the health facilities, and therefore cannot be undertaken by the proposed centrally placed office. Again, blood recipients’ rights should be protected. Any transfused persons who suffer adverse reactions shall have their expenses borne by the State, not the service which has no capacity for such undertaking. Collection of blood and blood products should be carried out by a qualified health professional, registered and licensed by their respective regulatory authorities. At the same time, blood donated should undergo mandatory testing and processing by registered medical laboratory professionals.
- The writer is a former officer in charge of programmes at the blood transfusion service, Ministry of Health