THE National Blood Services of Zimbabwe has suspended the credit facility for public health institutions and is now demanding advance payments in USD citing economic challenges.
The Government scrapped user fees for blood at all public health institutions in 2018 as most patients could no longer afford the prices of blood.
Blood has been in short supply for months now and Covid -19 worsened the situation as NBSZ recently ran out of stocks of imported consumables.
In a memo addressed to executive managers, heads of branch, finance and laboratory departments dated July 6, NBSZ said it would no longer accept the coupons that public health institutions were using to buy the blood on credit and the new payment system came into effect yesterday. “This memo serves to advise you that NBSZ has taken a position to stop accepting blood coupons from Government health Institutions with effect from July 7 2020. All Hospitals are now required to pay for products and services in advance until further notice. Credit facility can only be extended to a hospital after completion and approval of the credit application form,” read the memo.
“The costs of critical raw materials and consumables required for collection and processing of blood components has continued to escalate as a result of the current inflationary environment. In order to maintain the quality of our product and adequacy, it has become necessary to suspend blood coupons facility until payment modalities have been agreed upon between NBSZ and the Ministry of Health and Child Care.”
The NBSZ said its board had reviewed the financial position of the services and resolved that the blood user fees for public institutions, Medical Aid organisations and other health funders shall be paid strictly in US$.
“Blood user fees for public institutions, Medical Aid organisations and other health funders shall be paid strictly in United States Dollars or at an exchange rate equivalent to the Old Mutual Implied rate. Taking cognisance of the prevailing market rate, the revised fees and services that apply to both public and private institutions and Medical Aid organisations are attached to this memo for ease of reference and may be reviewed on short notice,” read the document.
NBSZ spokesperson Ms Ester Massundah said she could not comment on the issue because it was an internal memo which was leaked.
Acting permanent secretary Dr Gibson Mhlanga said NBSZ was yet to officially communicate the new prices to his office and as such he could not comment.
“I have not seen the memo officially so I do not know how it got to WhatsApp before it reached the office. I therefore do not know anything officially and cannot comment,” said Dr Mhlanga.
A local health expert Dr Solwayo Ngwenya said the failure to access blood by members of the public was an issue of life and death and its shortage could lead to many deaths at public health institutions.
“This is likely to lead to a rise in maternal mortalities and women that would have miscarriages as they need blood. Sometimes women who experience heavy menstruation require blood and as such many women will be affected,” he said.
Dr Solwayo said there is therefore urgent need to address the issue of supplying blood to health institutions as lack of blood could result in deaths.
“People on ARVs, those with chronic diseases and cancer patients on radiotherapy treatment tend to have a low blood count and if they face challenges in securing blood they may die. Malaria, severe malnutrition patients and even children under five will die as they need blood just like other groups with blood disorders.” chronicle