Blood banks can't charge more than rates fixed by NBTC: Gujarat High Court

Sunday, 1 December 2013 - 1:20pm IST | Place: Ahmedabad | Agency: DNA
Thalassemia and haemophilia patients to get free blood.

Soon, blood banks in Gujarat will be able to sell bloods to public only at the rate fixed by National Blood Transfusion Council (NBTC). They will also be obliged to give free blood to patients suffering from thalassemia and haemophilia.

The Gujarat High Court in its landmark judgement on blood banks on Saturday made it clear that it would be the duty of the state government to appoint sufficient number of inspectors to ensure that rules for running of blood banks are strictly complied with as per the National Blood Policy.

The court was hearing a public interest litigation (PIL) filed by city-based resident Ashok Naik.

During the hearing, the state government had filed an affidavit stating that it has no powers to order an inquiry into the blood donation and distribution channels of blood banks.

The HC also noted that it was apparent that blood banks were not following the guidelines on rates prescribed by NBTC and were charging patients arbitrarily. “All blood banks must display a rate card of the blood for patients as per NBTC rates,” the court said in its order. “We are of the opinion that strictest possible action should be taken against blood banks violating the guidelines, directions, conditions or regulations...,” the court observed.

The bench comprising chief justice Bhaskar Bhattacharya and justice JB Pardiwala also directed setting up of a high-level committee headed by additional chief secretary, health, from government of Gujarat. The nine-member committee will include an expert in blood transfusion, secretary heath expenditure from finance department, head of pathology department of BJ Medical College and commissioner of foods and drugs administration of the state.

The court directed the committee to look into eight broader guidelines (see table) while preparing its report. The guidelines are likely to prevent the opaque nature in which the blood banks operate at present. They clarify the definition of profiteering, collection and distribution of blood as well as mandate inspection and audit of the blood banks in the state.

The committee has been directed to submit its report within two months. The HC will look into the report in the first week of February 2014.

The PIL has alleged that some blood banks, specifically Ahmedabad-based Prathama Blood Bank, are profiteering by selling plasma and platelets. In its order the HC did not find the allegation to be correct. “We have already indicated that maximum demand is for red blood cells and the amount received from the sale of blood plasma or platelets is much less than what one receives by supplying red blood cells. Therefore, after supply of red blood cells, if the rest of the blood components are given for manufacture of plasma or platelets, the same cannot be objected to for any reason,” the court order read. 

In case of Prathama Blood Bank, the allegations in the PIL have been partly accepted by the court.

“It further appears that Prathama has been given land by the Ahmedabad Municipal Corporation (AMC) at the rate of Rs101 per annum for 99 years. One of the conditions set out as part of the aforesaid transaction was that the blood bank should give 10% of all blood collections free-of-cost to hospitals run by AMC and the balance requirement of the hospitals run by the AMC shall be fulfilled by giving blood at 30% discount from the prescribed rate. In such circumstances, we direct the AMC to strictly implement the above conditions and to give a report. If it appears that Prathama has committed breach of the condition, the same amounts to illegal enrichment of money, therefore, in such circumstances, the AMC should recover the amount of illegal enrichment,” the court ruled.

Guidelines to Committee
Every blood bank in state should earmark percentage of total blood collection to be supplied free of cost to govt or municipal hospital

Ensure appointment of sufficient number of inspectors

Ensure that no blood bank in state indulges in profiteering or charge more than the rate prescribed by the ministry of health and family welfare

Evolve a policy to make it clear as to what constitutes profiteering, what is the offence of profiteering and what should be its penal consequences.

Ensure that audit of blood banks is undertaken on a regular basis

Ensure strictest possible action against the blood banks found to be violating the guidelines

Ensure that all government and municipal hospitals conduct blood donation camps regularly based on assessment of the requirement.

Look into all other relevant aspects relating to blood banking

In a landmark judgement, Guj HC rules that it is state’s duty to ensure blood banks comply with National Blood Policy guidelines; appoints a committee to ensure full implementation of the order.

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