The Uganda Blood Transfusion Services (UBTS) administration wants lawmakers to pass legislation that will end the practice of selling blood to patients.
This came up during a meeting between officials from UBTS and members of the Public Accounts Committee (PAC – Central Government) on Thursday, 19 May 2022, to respond to the Auditor General’s queries for the year ending June 2021.
The officials revealed that patients are often forced into paying for blood at hospitals due to their urgent needs.
“We do not have any legislation in regard to this. If somebody is found selling blood, what would be the legal implication? This is something lawyers are trying to look into,” said Susan Acana, the Quality Manager at UBTS.
She added that UBTS has set up registration documentation in hospitals to ensure accountability for blood received and transfused is done and those blood units sent out to different hospitals are marked with the ‘Not for sale’ notice.
The committee chairperson Hon. Asuman Basalirwa said the sellers of blood are liable for charges of corruption, abuse of office and obtaining money by false pretence.
“The Penal Code, the Anti-Corruption Act, the IGG Act and the Public Health Act among others, have some penal provisions that will catch anyone selling blood. We have not had a test case, perhaps people have been found and released,” said Basalirwa.
Hon. Sarah Opendi, the Tororo District Woman MP said blood is consumable within health facilities along with other government property like medicines and supplies, which are not supposed to be for sale.
“There is corruption in government hospitals where they will tell you there is no blood but if you pay, it is made available. There are also private-for-profit hospitals that charge for blood transfusion, yet this blood is gotten from UBTS for free,” Opendi noted.
According to Micheal Mukundane the Coordinator for the National Blood Bank, it is difficult to apprehend individuals selling blood in hospitals, because the issue is not reported adequately.
“It has been going on as an allegation and it has become hard to catch these people because they do not issue receipts and it is never indicated on the patient’s bill. All health facilities pick blood at zero cost and should give it out at zero cost,” Mukundane noted.
He said that UBTS carries out publicity meetings to educate Ugandans that blood in health facilities is not for sale, as well as appeal to the public to donate blood.
Opendi tasked UBTS to seek the goodwill from some media houses to publicise its activities under their social corporate responsibility.
The UBTS Director, Dr Dorothy Kyeyune told the committee that publicity and mobilization were delegated to the Uganda Red Cross Society, through funding appropriated by Parliament.
Meanwhile, Mukundane explained that much as there is budgeting for publicity of UBTS under the Red Cross, it is not sufficient enough to execute the task and make an impact on activities like blood donation.
Basalirwa, however, urged the team to work within the available means to execute their mandate.
“We recognize that along the way, the resource envelope may not be enough but you must maximize the little you have,” he advised.