Nairobi — The Kenya National Blood Transfusion Service (KNBTS) is asking members of the public to report cases where hospitals charge for blood transfusion, a practice the agency says is unlawful.
Blood storage and screening costs, according to KNBTS, are borne by the Ministry of Health (MoH), the State-owned unit saying it screens blood and delivers it to hospitals for free.
"Everyone is encouraged to document any case where they were charged for blood and present to us for action. Charges incurred when Blood is screened, processed and stored are absorbed by MoH hence all hospitals receive it for free," the transfusion service tweeted on Monday responding to concerns from members of the public.
KNBTS said relatives of patients in need of blood should place a request for through the respective hospital's transfusion unit which then confirms availability of the said blood type with the nearest Regional Blood Transfusion Centre for dispatch.
The agency dispatches screened blood from its six Regional Blood Transfusion Centres (RBTCs) in Nairobi, Mombasa, Embu, Nakuru, Eldoret, and Kisumu ready for transfusion.
KNBTS also has twenty-one satellite centers in Voi, Machakos, Kisii, Meru, Naivasha, Busia, Siaya, Kericho, Nyeri, Garissa, Malindi, Thika, Lodwar, Bungoma, Kitale, Kwale, Nandi, Kitui, Narok, Lamu, Wajir and Migori.
"Functionally all the six RBTCs carry out blood collections, testing, grouping, storage and distribution while satellites carry out blood collection and send samples to RBTCs for testing," the agency said.
The statement by the blood transfusion service came amid concerns by members of the public over exorbitant prices charged by hospitals for transfusion services despite Kenyans heeding to frequent blood donation appeals.
Some hospitals have been accused of declining to receive blood from the national transfusion service in a bid to extort families of patients seeking such services.
"Unfortunately blood and blood products are a cash cow for private hospitals. That's why they 'refuse' taking blood from KNBTS. For emergency needs blood transfusion MUST be initiated first. Kenyans needs to adopt a blood donation culture," Dr Thuranira Kaugiria, Secretary General of Kenya Medical Practitioners Pharmacists & Dentists' Union (KMPDU) Nairobi branch remarked.
Other concerns raised by the public include a requirement for a patient's family to provide a donor for what has been termed as "replacement blood" in the event a health facility retrieves a compatible blood type from the KNBTS.
"Patients and their relatives could avoid being coerced/asked to always 'replace' if we (Kenyans) donated blood regularly, and if our blood transfusion centre KNBTS were efficient in collection, screening, storage, distribution and mapping blood needs across the country," KMPDU National Secretary General Dr Ouma Oluga said while alluding to the practice.
The KNBTS website places the annual blood demand nationwide at 500,000 units with its twenty-seven donation centres countrywide rising about 164,275 units annually for an estimated 200,000 recipients.
The transfusion service has organized a series of blood donation initiatives in the period leading to the World Blood Donor Day set for June 14.
A major blood donation drive in Nairobi has been earmarked for June 4 to June 7.
Blood collection trends by KNBTS indicate B Positive as the leading blood type collected from donors O Positive and AB Positive.