Kampala — The Ministry of Health Permanent Secretary, Dr Diana Atwine, has asked blood banks to consider charging private hospitals for service fees for supply of blood units since they sell the blood to patients.
Dr Atwine said private hospitals collect free processed blood from blood banks but sell it to patients claiming the payment is "processing fees."
She said since the hospitals charge patients for the blood, they should pay the processing fees to the blood banks on collection.
"If I have a private hospital; Case Clinic, Nakasero and they charge yet they don't process blood, but they charge for that, somehow they put processing fees; they charge yet they don't process anything. So, if they are coming here to pick blood, then they pay a fee for processing, I don't see any problem with that," Dr Atwine said.
"World over, there are no free services, we pay for services. You will find private hospitals somehow charging [patients] processing fees yet they do not pay [for processing]. So if they are coming to pick blood and pay fees, there is no crime in that; it is very appropriate," she said.
The Health PS was speaking at the handover ceremony of blood donation vans to Mengo Hospital yesterday.
Dr Atwine also said the proposal to charge private hospitals processing fees to blood banks is not intended to make profit but rather sustain the long procedure of processing blood.
She said it will also spread the burden of processing blood to private hospitals so that the costs are shared, which in turn would lead to constant availability of blood.
"One unit of blood to process it is $40 (Shs150,000). Imagine in the circumstances of underfunding and we are not able to process... yes, blood was given free by somebody, but beyond just taking blood from the vein, there is so much to process. Therefore, it is not a crime to say we need to pay for the processing fee. So, for me I think this would be appropriate," Dr Atwine said.
"We must come up with a policy that sets up services because when you go to private hospitals like Nakasero, they will charge you for blood yet we have given it for free," she added.
Dr Atwine said the management of blood banks should put up a system to equip hospitals with capacity to collect and process blood donated from the field.
The Health PS said this will solve the current over reliance on blood banks for all blood supplies for hospitals.
Dr Frank Kakuba, the head of Mengo Rotary Blood Bank, said they will discuss Dr Atwine's proposal and make a decision.
"As the Rotary blood bank, we do not have equipment to process blood, but as the permanent secretary has suggested that we impose a fee on the paying hospitals, it is a policy that we shall discuss," Dr Kakuba said in an interview with Daily Monitor after the ceremony.
He said blood processing involves checking for infections, blood groups and separation of blood components, among others.
He said Mengo Rotary Blood Bank collects about 700 units of blood per month but due to lack of the required equipment, the blood is taken to Nakasero National Blood Bank for processing.
Dr Atwine said once the cost of blood processing is shared, it will address the chronic shortage of blood in the country.
The Rotary Blood Bank yesterday donated two blood donation vans worth about Shs120m to ease mobility of field medical teams to collect blood up-country and bring it to Mengo hospital.