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Nigeria’s Health Minister Seeks Modernization Of Blood Transfusion Service With Blood Service Commission

BY DAYO ADESULU

Minister of Health,  Dr Osagie Ehanire has restated the need for a modernized blood transfusion service in Nigeria stating that “the importance of blood transfusion service in the health system of a country is not something that we need to emphasize again”, in our country here, apart from a very high mortality rate, a large portion of which is very high, is ascribed to blood loss.”

The Minister of Health, made this statement when a visiting team from the National Blood Transfusion Service (NBTS) led by its National Coordinator, Dr Joseph Amedu paid him a courtesy visit to update him on the progress and challenges faced by the NBTS.

The Minister said, “with a high portion of mortality rate in Nigeria, ascribed to blood loss especially around delivery – postpartum haemorrhage with a large amount of blood required for routine surgery, accidents, in trauma cases, chronic diseases like sickle cell anaemia which has a high prevalence in Nigeria, justify very well the need for the modernization and creation of a Blood Service Commission.”

He further highlighted the importance, potentials and benefits of the Blood Service Commission to include; fulfilling all the needs of the country in the areas mentioned, the idea of having One million strategic blood reserve for the country, sighting the explosion that rocked Lebanon with a large number of people requiring blood transfusion, in a case where one is faced with such, with a reserve you have somewhere you reach into to take care of mass catastrophe and disasters, he said is a “good idea.”

The Minister also spoke of commercializing the blood service industry, “with a huge population of 200 million with majority young people, which is a pool of donors more than Europe’s.  We have the materials right here, the masses. With a global high demand for blood products, parts and proper blood fractionation, the  Commission will not only be self-sustaining but highly revenue-generating, this is a goldmine if explored”,  he stated.

The NBTS is charged with the responsibility of providing safe, quality blood and blood products for transfusion in a cost-effective manner to all who may require it in Nigeria

Dr. Ehanire said that the Ministry has noted the challenges faced by the NBTS, and will set up an appointment for the team to speak with the Joint Health Committees on Health of the National Assembly who is responsible for appropriation to have the opportunity to put forward the thoughts and vision of the NBTS Team to enable the NASS members to join in appreciating the value of blood transfusion service and blood transfusion development in Nigeria which is also the vision of the President.  He advised the team to articulate its thoughts into a document to the Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Health.

He noted the huge potential of blood transfusion service and is happy that the team has been able to articulate everything and put it on the table and let those who have the technology come up with suggestions and partnership, because “Government, the Minister said will not have all the money; the idea of private partnership is highly recommended and welcomed.  With South Africa being the most advanced country in Africa when it comes to transfusion science at the moment, a visit to learn from them will be worthwhile to know how it is organized and how to streamline blood testing and increase the parameters that are tested, to add more parameters.”

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Earlier, National Coordinator informed the Minister of the NBTS proposal of a bill for a Commission which was approved by the Federal Executive Council in 2018.  He disclosed that this has just gone through a public hearing on the 23rd of July, 2020 and awaiting passage by the 9th National Assembly.  He highlighted some of the progress made so far by the NBTS to include re-establishing relationships with partners and stakeholders for effectiveness and efficiency, with the NBTS prepared for active advocacy, enlightenment and sensitization to communities and Nigerians on the importance and need for voluntary non-remunerated blood donation while working on different strategies to attract and convince donors even in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic.

He further said that the re-organization of the administrative and functional structures, to pave way for carrying out its mandate, concentrating energy and resources on having functional zonal centres, letting States take over their centres and those without, to establish one, while providing technical support to them.  He added that while awaiting the passage of the bill, they have started discussions with partners and the private sector for investors to indicate interest in the move to commence the commercialization through the production of blood components and plasma derivatives medicinal products.

Not leaving out some of the challenges faced to include; lack of enabling legislation required to carry out regulatory function on blood safety practices, though it is being addressed, he said, lack of adequate office accommodation, lack of sufficient funds for the NBTS’ operational activities, late release of budgetary appropriation for program implementation during the period under review resulting to low blood collection and late implementation and execution of scheduled activities; low public awareness and deep cultural myths and misconceptions on voluntary blood donation by the public were some of the challenges he listed.

The National Coordinator of NBTS also listed insufficient and outdated laboratory screening equipment which he said is hindering quality screening processes nationwide; continued insurgency and security challenges experienced across the country, which has greatly reduced blood collection activities in the affected zones, among others.

Dr Joseph Amedu further appealed for financial intervention from the Ministry of Finance through the Office of the Honourable Minister of Health to enable the Service to move forward “because the annual budget envelope may not be very reliable”.  He also requested that the Minister gives NBSC a special consideration during the bilateral budget discussion with the Budget Office for 2021 appropriation.

The NBTS is charged with the responsibility of providing safe, quality blood and blood products for transfusion in a cost-effective manner to all who may require it in Nigeria.

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