Officials from the Uganda Blood Transfusion Services (UBTS) have called on lawmakers to pass legislation that will nip in the bud the practice of selling blood to patients.
Meeting members on the Public Accounts Committee (PAC – Central Government) to respond to the Auditor General’s queries for the year ending June 2021, UBTS revealed that patients are often forced into paying for blood at hospitals due to its urgent need.
“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 Ms 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 that blood units sent out to different hospitals are marked with the ‘Not for sale’ notice.
The PAC Chairperson, Mr Asuman Basalirwa, said the sellers of blood are liable for charges of corruption, abuse of office and obtaining money by false pretense.
“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 Mr Basalirwa.
The Tororo District Woman MP, Ms Sarah Opendi, said blood is a 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,” Ms Opendi noted.
Mr Micheal Mukundane, the Coordinator for the National Blood Bank, said 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,” Mr Mukundane noted.
He said that UBTS carries out publicity to educate Ugandans that blood in health facilities is not for sale, as well as appealing to the public to donate blood.
Ms Opendi tasked UBTS to seek the good will from some media houses to publicise its activities under their social corporate responsibility.
Dr Dorothy Kyeyune, the UBTS Director, told the committee that publicity and mobilisation was delegated to the Uganda Red Cross Society through funding appropriated by Parliament.
Mr 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.
However, Mr Basalirwa urged the team to work within the available means to execute their mandate.
“We recognise that along the way, the resource envelope may not be enough but you must maximise the little you have,” he advised.