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[The Concourse] National Blood Transfusion Service: An underused lifesaving agency in Nigeria


National Blood Transfusion Service (NBTS) is a parastatal under the Federal Ministry Of Health established in 2004 by the Obasanjo-led government to bridge the yawning gap between demand for, and supply of, safe and quality blood (and blood products) in Nigeria. Its genitive incipience was a product of a meticulously thought out plan to make safe blood available for all who need blood transfusion anywhere in Nigeria. This followed a survey carried out a year before, which showed an annual blood demand of 1.5million pints, with a supply of 0.5million exposing a deficit of 1.0million pints nationwide. And what this means was that over one million Nigerians die annually due to inability to access blood for transfusion. And so NBTS was conceived and born with over 15 state offices to fix this.

It is therefore unsavory that 15 years down the line, this gap is not bridged due to low patronage of their services by Nigerians. It beggars questions as to the class of people we are. There are two ways Nigerians can patronize NBTS. First, by donating blood freely, or replacing used blood for relatives or by remunerated donation (commercial donours). Second, by sourcing blood from the agency. But at each instance, the turn up is abysmally low.

As mentioned above, the founding philosophy of NBTS is providing safe, quality blood, blood products and services for transfusion in a cost-effective, highly subsidized rate to all who may require it in Nigeria.

With records available, it is obvious, the agency is one of the most under-patronized government parastatals in the country. It is a common knowledge that in Health care practice, blood demand is always an emergency case. And such situations arise frequently in our environment. So why the paradoxically low patronage of NBTS among Nigerians?

We can only hazard guess.

The foremost guess is possibility of lack of information. It is very likely that majority of our population are unaware of this all-important health service outfit. And this is partly do to perfunctory attitudes of the National Orientation Agency (NOA) whose duty includes collaborating with Ministry of Health in sensitizing the masses of their rights to quality health care and government’s institutions that provide them. And partly due to loss of faith in government owned agencies by Nigerians because of perennial service failure that is customary to them.

This issue became a huge concern to people who still hold on to the silken cord of patriotism that binds us together as a people, as we consider the level of fund expended on this institution yearly to sustain it and maintain quality. It got heightened as Dr. Kingsley Odiabara took over office as the National Quality Assurance Manager of the organization. He is one man who sonorously allergic to mediocrity. He raised the bar in ensuring conformity to the international best practices of quality assurance protocols in blood transfusion science. From conformity to the least variables that affect good laboratory practice as little as maintenance of room temperature to the complex science of ensuring that Transfusion transmissible infections (TTIs) are not just absent but eradicated, Dr. Odiabara is hoisting NBTS flag of excellence in space.

Quality is not cheap. And so it is dolesome that after investing much capital and human resources to keep up to standards, the supposed beneficiaries of this Service will exhibit apathetic pheromones and allow it waste.

There was a reason some of us were agitated at the disproportionate gap between the dedication of NBTS management and the unresponsive approach of the targeted audience — Nigerians. If the current National Coordinator of the outfit, Dr. Amedu (known for the promotion of professional ethos) could give the likes of Dr. Odiabara free hand to implement all the sophisticated Quality Management Systems (QMS) algorithms to ensure that the agency braced up to the challenges of finery practice, it would be unfair to allow such investment waste due to low or non-patronage.

Three weeks ago, the management came up with a ten year road map of having at least one million blood supply every year for the next ten year. The strategic planning was contained in its vision 2030 plan aimed at repositioning the centre for greater impact. This plan includes making their presence felt in the hinterlands, believing it might be the reason why the gap had kept widening. This is only achievable if we accord them the requisite support as a people during their blood donation hunt sessions. This support are in two folds as noted earlier. Either we go there to donate blood or we go there to procure one.

The ball is in our court!

Wake up Nigeria, an agency is in your neighborhood to save your life in time of critical health challenge.

However, no organization under human management is perfect. NBTS is not an exception.
But while we cannot expunge the organization of bad elements in its rank and file, Nigerians are urged to litigate against such malpractice.

Anyone who noticed or experienced the outfit live below par in service delivery, has the patriotic obligation to lodge complaints at Servicom and National Human rights commission (NHRC).

✍Eze Jude O.

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