Body to oversee blood business constituted
KARACHI: The Sindh Health Department has finally notified the constitution of the Sindh Blood Transfusion Authority (SBTA) after a long wait, obviously to streamline blood transfusion-related activities across the province, it emerged last week.
According to sources in the health department, the Sindh health minister will act as chairperson of the authority which among other functions will also ensure a set of surveillance procedures for entire blood transfusion chain – from the donation and processing of blood and its components to blood availability and transfusion to patients – as well as making a follow-up.
Constituted with the approval of Sindh Chief Minister Murad Ali Shah, the SBTA board will comprise two legislators to be nominated by speaker Sindh Assembly, Sindh health secretary, director of blood transfusion services at the Aga Khan University Hospital, Dr Farukh Ali Khan of Dow University of Health Science (Ojha campus), Brig (retd) Muhammad Sarwar Khan of the Regional Blood Centre (Karachi) and secretary SBTA, who was yet to be inducted.
A source privy to the transfusion services confided that the constitution of such authority was being awaited over two years. “In the absence of any meaningful and competent regulators, the provincial government has been failing to play its due role as far as the collection, testing, processing, storage, distribution issuance, transmission of human blood and blood components are concerned,” the source commented while seeking anonymity.
The source added that the government’s health functionaries had also been failing to ensure health protection and prevention of transfusion transmissible diseases.
Moreover, the SBTA board, whose function is also to consider the blood banks’ registration or suspension cases, has not met for long. The new law—the Sindh Safe Blood Transfusion Act—was enacted by the Sindh Assembly in the last quarter of 2017 after repealing the Sindh Safe Blood Authority Act of 1997.
Another source referred to a 2016 compilation of blood bags screening reports of SBTA, saying that a number of the registered blood banks in the public and private sector took little care of the protocol and procedure related to blood donors’ selection and pre-donation counseling, leaving chances open for professional blood donors and the consequential unsafe blood transfusion to patients in need.
For any latest blood bag screening reports, this scribe repeatedly contacted the people at the helm of affairs at SBTA but always given a cold shoulder. The overseers said such things were taking time to finalize as their offices were understaffed.
Regarding the reported ad-hoc approach of authorities, it was further learned that the post of secretary SBTA is lying vacant for over 18 months, while the government inducted some officers against the sanctioned posts lately.
In June last, the then health secretary had informed his superiors in an official note that the SBTA secretary post, which was lying vacant since September 2018, needed to be filled immediately by a doctor of BPS-20 having qualification of postgraduation in pathology and blood banking.
A senior transfusion physician from the private sector said that the SBTA’s existence was being felt very little owing to the absence of “right people for the right jobs”. He remarked: “The blood transfusion management and quality happen to be very serious issues across the globe and as such government needs to depute well-experienced doctors relevant to the subject and experts in transfusion medicine, otherwise just filling the setup with inexperienced fellows and conducting so-called raids on the blood units will not be enough for the overall and tangible benefit to patients communities.”
The health department notification in question also included a set of terms of reference for the newly constituted Authority. “The SBTA working in line with the transfusion act of 2017 shall adopt or develop uniform policy covering all aspects of safe blood transfusion throughout Sindh; register and issue licenses to blood establishments, blood centers, hospital blood banks in the prescribed manner; ensure the standards for processes performed by blood establishments, related to collection, testing of human blood and blood components, whatever their purpose, and to their preparation, storage, distribution, issuance, and administration when intended for transfusion, are undertaken only by institutions that have been licensed and by professionals certified for that purpose.”
The Authority will also prescribe the standards and specifications in the form of rules and regulations to give effect to the provisions of the Act. It will take all necessary measures to ensure that every transfusion facility establishes and maintains a quality system.
Among other functions, the SBTA will ensure that any serious adverse events related to the collection, testing, processing, storage and distribution, issuance and/or administration of blood and blood components, which may have an influence on the quality and safety of blood and blood components or on the donors’ and staff safety, as well as any serious adverse reactions observed in donors that may be attributed to the donation or in patients that may be attributed to the transfusion are notified to the Authority.
Social Track presented the following questions to the SBTA office and the provincial health secretariat for replies to clear some ambiguities, which were awaited:
- Is the relevant office now in a position to convene the much stressed SBTA meeting? If yes, then when it will be scheduled and what items would be on its agenda?
- Will it address the long-pending applications for licensing of new blood banks and renewal of the existing ones, including those functioning under interim orders issued from time to time?
- Is there any update about the blood banks reportedly functioning with deficiencies in the absence of proper monitoring initiatives?
- When will the SBTA get its secretary?
- The notification related to the SBTA constitution says secretary/director can act as member and secretary of the constituted body. Is this in line with SSBTA Act, 2017?
- Does the law envisage accommodating any director in the SBTA board?
- Can any director (grade 19 officer) act as CEO and secretary of SBTA?
- Can the director be allowed to sit in the SBTA meeting?
- Will it not be plausible to finalize the appointment of a regular secretary in line with the Act first? — the reporter