Not true to say 'patients pay for blood received'

I read with interest two letters, published in Sowetan of June 18 and 21, by N Ntsheyiya and a Concerned Resident.

The authors accused the South African National Blood Service (SANBS) of selling blood it has received free of charge.

A matter of clarity: Patients in South Africa, like in other countries, do not pay for the blood they receive. What they pay for is the actual costs incurred to collect, test, transport and store the blood.

In an effort to ensure that the SANBS supplies hospitals with quality and safe blood, the organisation has acquired the most sophisticated technology to test each unit of blood individually for HIV, hepatitis B and C, syphilis and other sexually transmitted diseases.

This technology has been acquired at a great cost to ensure that patients receive the safest blood. When a patient receives a blood transfusion in a state hospital, the costs incurred are recovered from the Department of Health.

But, if a patient receives blood in a private hospital, the patient must settle the bill or send it through to his or her medical aid scheme for payment. This is an international standard of practice.

The SANBS is a Section 21 company, a non-profit making organisation. Though it operates under licence from the Department of Health, it is not state-owned.

Justice Mohale

SANBS: Corporate communications manager