The increase of blood prices in forex by the National Blood Services Zimbabwe (NBSZ) despite the fact that citizens make free donations almost every month has shocked the patients who are desperate for blood transfusion.
Indications are that blood price increased to US$145 a pint since January from ZWL$8 400 amid revelations many blood seekers are struggling to raise the amount which is beyond the reach of many citizens, while most of those who are working earn local currency far below or almost equal to the amount.
Blood transfusion is often critical for people involved in road traffic accidents, pregnant women and patients suffering from diseases of the blood or blood deforming organs.
Some Bulawayo patients who are on renal dialysis note that the blood price has jumped far beyond their reach and authorities must be ashamed that citizens give their blood for free to the NBSZ only for people to fail to access it when they need it to save their lives.
“I was shocked to be told that a pint of blood now cost US$145 when I was buying it for my brother who is on renal dialysis on January 27,” says Johnson Ncube, Pumula resident.
“This is really ridiculous to imagine that people donate blood for free and when someone wants it, has to part with this amount of money in Zimbabwe, where it’s known that people earn local currency worse which cannot buy that amount,” he says.
Ncube says his brother has been going to Mpilo Central Hospital for renal dialysis since the year 2018 and they have been buying blood using local currency and the last time he had bought the blood, a pint was worth around ZWL$8 400 local currencies.
Another Mpopoma resident Norman Mpofu whose father is admitted at Mpilo Hospital who has been attending renal dialysis sessions at the hospital for some time says he was shocked to hear others say they bought blood at that price.
He says his family was lucky that his father is an elderly person and on admission at the hospital after his condition deteriorated, he was given blood for free due to his old age.
“My father is not well, he is admitted to Mpilo Hospital, and yes he used to attend renal dialysis sessions at Mpilo Hospital. These days he is not well and is admitted there. I was shocked to hear that the blood price has been raised to that level. Why are they increasing blood prices to that level when people donate it for free?” Mpofu says.
“But when my father was admitted they gave him blood for free because of his age. The truth is that it is unfair to sell blood donated for free at such a price and it means many people will die due to failure to access blood.”
NBSZ Southern Region spokesperson Sifundo Ngwenya dismissed the claims saying they are made by people who prefer going to private health facilities where they are charged hefty amounts, adding that the blood was declared a free product by the government six years ago though there are some user fees charged.
“There is no change in price, you remember that blood was six years declared a free product in all health facilities such as government and council hospitals,” says Ngwenya, NBSZ Southern Region spokesperson.
“But people chose to be luxurious and go to private institutions where they pay extra money just because they want to be unique,” says Ngwenya.
Ngwenya said people create difficult circumstances for themselves by deciding to go to private institutions when they can get the same services at low cost at public facilities.
“They forget that those doctors they rush to at private facilities are the same doctors whom they are abandoning at the public hospitals. People end up parting with a lot of money where they were not supposed to. Those who are complaining, complain on what capacity because if someone is a blood donor they are assured of benefiting when the need arises.”
“You will realize that someone has cancer and decide to go to a private place where he or she will spend a lot of money to a point that when he dies he leaves his family with nothing, having spent everything, yet the same service at a low cost is available at public institutions,” he says.
When asked as to how much was the correct price of a pint of blood, Ngwenya says patients are only charged user fees because the institution sources the blood bags on its own and most of it is imported.
Ngwenya could not provide specific figures off hand saying he was out of his work station. But a receipt of the payment made by one of the blood buyers in possession shows that he paid US$145.
As of last year, NBSZ had increased the blood price more than double for patients seeking treatment from private health institutions, private wards at public institutions and everyone covered by medical aid with effect from June 15.
The increases saw private and insured patients requiring transfusions paying ZWL$8 400 for a unit of blood, up from ZWL$3 600.
Indications were that patients were required to pay ZWL$1 050 for grouping and screening and a further $700 for cross-matching, bringing the total package of accessing a pint of blood in a private facility to ZWL$10 150.
NBSZ then attributed the increases to inflation adding that the institution was procuring its products from the local market at a premium that is over 240 per cent compared to the interbank rate. At any given time, the blood bank must have at least 1 500 to 2 000 units of blood.
Source: The Citizen Bulletin