Country’s hospitals are facing an acute shortage of blood bags as traders were recently unable to import the product due to difficulties in opening LCs because of the dollar crisis, increased global prices and customs duty.
Blood banks are unable to collect blood from donors due to the shortage of blood bags, which threatens to hamper blood transfusion activities in medical facilities, said people involved in the sector.
The Sheikh Hasina National Institute of Burn and Plastic Surgery requires double blood bags most for the treatment of burn patients. With its current stock of bags, the hospital can provide treatments for 10 days at most, officials there said.
The hospital requires 1,600 to 2,000 blood bags every month, said sources at the institute.
Single blood bags are usually required for surgeries while double and triple blood bags are needed for the transfusion of platelets and plasma. These products are also used for reliable collection, separation, storage and transportation of blood, said doctors.
“The demand for single blood bags in the country is low so there is some stock of these bags, but there is a crisis of double and triple bags,” Dr Ashraful Hoque, assistant professor at the blood transfusion department of Burn Institute, told The Business Standard.
“The Central Medical Store Depot supplies blood bags to us. When they run out of stock, we buy it from the local market. We have been contacting the local sellers for the last few days but none of them could supply us the bags we needed,” said Dr Ashraful Hoque.
Blood transfusion experts and importers said the country needs approximately two million blood bags annually, all of which is imported – mainly from Singapore, Germany, UK, and China.
JMI Group usually meets around 50% of the demand for blood bags in the country, but its online shop shows that single, double, triple blood bags are currently not available.
Abhijit Paul, Executive Director, JMI Syringes and Medical Devices Ltd. JMI Group told TBS, “Recently, we were not able to import a sufficient number of bags due to complexities in opening LCs. The price of the product has also jumped in the international market. Besides, the taka has been devalued against the dollar, which has increased the product price by 25%.
“We still managed to open an LC recently. A small consignment of blood bags will arrive in a few days.”
On condition of anonymity, an official of a medical equipment importer which supply blood bags to most of the government hospitals including Sheikh Hasina National Institute of Burn and Plastic Surgery, Dhaka Medical College, and National Institute of Traumatology and Orthopaedic Rehabilitation, told TBS, “The crisis of double and triple blood bags is more severe now as we could not import any product since August last year due to the dollar crisis.”
“We use Euros to import products from European countries, but the price of that currency is very high too. Besides, the customs duty margin has increased by 15%. As a result, the cost of importing the product has jumped. If the price of the product increases too much, it cannot be sold.” He added.
Every year, the Bangladesh Police collects blood from volunteers coming to its stall at the Ekushey Book Fair and stores it in the Central Police Hospital’s blood bank. However, this year they have been collecting blood in a lower volume compared to previous years due to the shortage of blood bags.
“There are donors, but we cannot collect blood due to the shortage of bags. Last year we collected about 1,500 bags of blood, which were further processed and used for treatment of common people. This year, we might collect around 600 bags of blood,” Sub-inspector AKM Siddiqul Islam, in charge of the Police Blood Bank, told TBS.
He said, “We cannot produce plasma due to the crisis of double bags, for which the burn unit patients are suffering. Our hospital requires 1,200-1,500 single blood bags, 200-300 double blood bags, and 20-30 triple blood bags per month. Now there is a shortage of all kinds of bags.
“Earlier, we bought some bags, while the Safe Blood Transfusion Department provided some more. We might be able to run our operations properly for one month and a half at most with the stock of blood bags we have.”
“We usually buy bags from the BMA Market but recently we could not find it there. JMI also has no blood bags. We do not buy non-brand products as they cost too much, but we cannot even find those in the market,” he added.
Dr Sheikh Daud Adnan, acting director (Hospital and Clinics) at the Directorate General of Health Services, told TBS, “We have some blood bags in stock. We will distribute them according to the hospitals’ demands.”