Blood for sale

Sadiqur Rahman reveals the kind of problems faced by patients and their family members at the DMCH when bags of blood are urgently required

iss1On July 23, Mamun, a carpenter from Shalbari in Gazipur, brought his wife Tamanna to the Gazipur Sadar Hospital after she fell ill and fainted. The duty doctor suggested that the patient was likely suffering from anemia and should be brought to the Dhaka Medical College Hospital (DMCH) as soon as possible and to arrange at least four bags of A(+) blood. Being a stranger to Dhaka and with little knowledge about how to procure blood donations, Mamun phoned his acquaintances living in the city for help while riding on the ambulance carrying them towards DMCH.
By the time they had reached the hospital at 11:00pm, Mamun still had not managed to find any blood donors and so the search continued. The emergency blood bank of the DMCH was found empty and Tamanna’s physical condition deteriorated further. The emergency doctors compounded the problem by telling the already exhausted Mamun that unless a bag of blood was found within the hour, they would be unable to save his wife.
Sensing Mamun’s desperation, a stranger mysteriously offered his services to Mamun telling him that if Mamun paid him 1,700 tk, he would find him an emergency blood bag from the bank. Mamun was confused and did not know what to do as he had already discovered that there were no matching blood groups available. Eventually, he called one of his friends to help him out.
Luckily for Mamun, his friend found a donor nearby who was the same blood group. After talking to the donor, Mamun quickly brought him to the blood transfusion unit of the hospital at about 12:30 am. It took another hour to transfuse the blood into Tamanna’s body. The next morning, the search for blood donors resumed. Once again, the DMCH blood bank failed to provide Mamun with blood.
Nurul Alam Bhuiyan, a businessman and social activist, then came forward to help Mamun after being informed via social media. He brought his friend, grouped by A (+) blood, to DMCH at noon. Though the blood transfusion unit is a 24 hour service at the hospital, Nurul found the unit staff more preoccupied with their lunch time. ‘A long queue of patients stretched in front of the blood transfusion fee counter. Because the fee collector had taken his lunch break without handing over his duty to another staff,’ Bhuiyan complains.
Once Nurul and Mamun had paid the fee, they rushed to the blood transfusion unit with the donor as the patient’s condition again turned serious. There they were confronted by more negligence. Nurul recalls, ‘Every blood donor– as per the DMCH service– should be served with one packet biscuit and a 500 ml drinking water before donating blood. But our blood donor did not receive anything.’
The unit staff said that there was no supply of biscuit and water at that time. Service of the blood transfusion unit seemed awful to Nurul when he saw that an internee medical technologist was collecting blood without even fixing the syringe properly into the donor’s vein. ‘They even did not tape the needled point of donor’s hand,’ says Nurul.

Everyday, hundreds of DMCH patients need blood for their treatment. Of the required number of blood, DMCH blood bank only manages to provide 10 per cent. Around 40 per cent comes from Badhan, a voluntary blood donation campaign run by university students. According to the department of transfusion medicine of DMCH, on average 200 blood donors contribute to hospital blood supply everyday. Most of them come there either from Badhan or patient’s family connections.
DMCH has no record of how many patients die from lack of blood. However, the department sources inform New Age Xtra that blood scarcity often prompt the patients’ attendants to buy blood from brokers of private and illegal blood banks.
A responsible official of the department who wanted to remain anonymous while talking to New Age Xtra, regrets, ‘DMCH authority has failed to stop the illegal trade of blood, because they [agents] are united and stronger than the DMCH administration.’ She goes on, ‘We often take departmental or legal actions against the illegal blood traders. But they always escape somehow by using their political affiliation.’
According to the official, some DMCH staff steal money from the blood transfusion fee when attendants forget to take money receipts from the counter. The official advises all that patient and their attendant should not pay any fee in DMCH without taking their money receipts.
‘Trading blood is totally illegal. There are signboards holding contact numbers of the authority to post complaint. If you find any irregularity in DMCH, inform the on-duty officer immediately,’ the official suggests.

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