By Gamuchirai Mugadzaweta
THE reduction of blood price by the National Blood Services of Zimbabwe (NBSZ) is a clear statement of intent by President Emmerson Dambudzo Mnangagwa’s new administration to improve the quality of life of the majority.
This follows the announcement on Monday this week by the Ministry of Health and Child Care that it has pumped US$4,7 million into the health sector.
The move is expected to provide increased blood inflows and quality services in the health institutions country wide.
Of significance is that this facility has resulted in public institutions reviewing fees for blood downwards.
A unit of blood in a public hospital now costs US$50 from the previous US$80.
Before the Ministry of Health and Child Care’s timely intervention, the country had the highest unit price in southern Africa.
In an interview, NBSZ chief executive officer, Lucy Marova, said priority will be given to blood donors and their immediate family members in the event of urgent need for blood.
“We have a donor policy that allows one to be given priority when they are involved in an accident,” said Marova.
“Both the private and public hospitals collect blood from us and they have their list of people waiting to receive blood, so we cannot tell them what to do with it since it will be in their hands.
“But when it comes to donors wanting blood, we ensure they are attended to since they donate blood regularly.”
Marova added that the NBSZ had raised their target from 65 000 to 70 000 units in 2018 to be able to meet the current demand.
“Last year we did not reach our target due to various reasons, but all is in shape this year and we are looking forward to working closely with all the institutions so that we are housed there for both collection and banking blood,” she said.
“The move is aimed at using the available centres for collection instead of building our own structures.”
The NBSZ undertook stringent cost reduction measures that saw its annual budget come down from US$9 million to US$7,8 million.
The cost reduction measures culminated in the decrease of a unit of blood in the public hospitals while efforts are being made to review fees structure in the private sector.
The number of collection centres has not grown apart from Harare, Bulawayo, Gweru, Masvingo and Mutare and this is a cause for concern to those in remote areas where blood is also needed to save lives.
However, emphasis is on the Blood group Type ‘O’ which is in short supply while other types are adequate enough to save any arising demand.
Blood donor, Donald Madzukwa, said it is crucial to increase collection centres.
“It is a good step towards better and affordable services in the health sector and our prayer is that the collection centres increase so that every public hospital has a blood bank,” said Madzukwa.
“Previously, blood was mostly available at private hospitals where it was expensive so we hope supplies to the public hospitals will improve.”
The health sector has seen some improvements since the surprise visits by the First Lady Auxillia Mnangagwa whose intention was to gather information on issues hampering service delivery in the health sector.
Since then, the Government has scrapped some hospital fees.
Children under the age of five, all maternal cases and senior citizens above the age of 65 have been exempted from paying hospital fees.
These groups are not supposed to pay consultation fees, card fees, table money and administration fees.
Zimbabwe annually records close to half-a-million births and there often is excessive blood loss which requires transfusion of an average of three pints.
Timely blood transfusion prevents maternal deaths which are still high with over 500 women dying out of every 100 000 live births.