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BLOODY CORRUPTION

THE Ministry of Health must not rest until it gets to the heart of the corruption at the nation’s Blood Bank operating from the University Teaching Hospital in Lusaka.
That some members of staff at the Blood Bank sell blood to innocent people makes sad reading for it defeats the whole purpose for which hospitals operate.
Moreover, it brings to the fore the extent to which corruption has entrenched itself in the country when even for things which are supposed to be free, one has to part with money to be served.
It is shocking that some officials at the Blood Bank officials are forcing patients to pay up to K300 to access transfusion. This is a service that is supposed to be free.
It is beyond one’s imagination that a worker at a health institution can take advantage of someone at their weakest point and extort money from them to access a service.
One man, whose wife was in labour and needing a caesarean section, told the Daily Nation that medical staff in the ward advised him to go to the Blood Bank to negotiate for supply.
At the Blood Bank, he was advised to go in the evening, at which point he was asked to pay “something” to ensure his wife got the blood for the transfusion.
And indeed, after parting away with the K300, a blood transfusion was carried out.
Another man, whose wife was still admitted, said that he was equally advised to pay K300 which he did and the wife had a blood transfusion the same day.
And obviously without any remorse, whoever was attending to them made clear to them that there would be no transfusion without the “something” to smoothen the path.
In such a situation, what would a distraught person do when a loved one is in desperate need of a blood transfusion and the only sure means of accessing the service is by paying a bribe?
It is quite clear that some officials at the Blood Bank have taken advantage of the high demand for blood as the facility not only services the entire UTH but private hospitals too.
Such people who clearly lack empathy should not be anywhere near a health institution and as Ministry of Health spokesperson, Dr. Joseph Kabalo, noted, charging for such a critical product was tantamount to gross misconduct and would not be tolerated.
But Dr Kabalo said that blood products were free and as such no one must be made to pay and stressed that blood products are part of the pharmaceutical products and free in all government health facilities.
While we welcome his assurance that the ministry would investigate the matter, it should also question why health personnel in the wards must ask private citizens to go to the Blood Bank on their own.
We would have thought this was the work of the nursing staff in the wards.
But going forward, we implore the Ministry of Health to ensure that the Blood Bank is off limits to the general public. It should only be accessible to medical staff, including those from private health centres with proper identities.
It must at the same time sensitise the public that they do not need to pay anything to do with certain services at the hospital to do with blood services.
Dr Kabalo warned health workers who were charging patients or relatives for services that are supposed to be free that the ministry would deal firmly with anyone found wanting and advised those involved to stop or face disciplinary action.
We think the earlier these characters are flushed out of the system, the better so that hospitals, particularly the UTH, can regain that public trust again.

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