Why blood donation is important and the reasons behind the cost

Blood transfusion bag.
Blood transfusion bag.
Image: 123RF/nyvltart

The South African National Blood Service (SANBS) has explained why donated blood is being sold to hospitals.

People have been left frustrated by the notion that the blood service is selling blood which they have donated for free.

SANBS explained that they have to sell the blood in order to cover costs.

The costs, according to the blood service, cover collection, testing, storage and delivery. These would include gloves, needles, blood bags, beds, freezer and storage boxes.

“We put each unit of blood donated through rigorous testing to ensure that a patient does not receive contaminated blood – which you can appreciate requires a lot of resources,” said SANBS Regional Marketing Manager Sifiso Khoza.

Various social media users have made claims of blood being sold for amounts ranging from R7000 to R9200. In response, donors aired their frustrations with this as they could not understand how they are not getting a share of the money.

Khoza said that the National Health Act and the World Health Organisation prohibits payment or compensation for organ and blood donation which is why donation done voluntary.

“That is why we are so grateful to each and every one of our selfless donors for their heroic act in donating, which allows us to help save the lives of countless South Africans,” said Khoza.

He said SANBS is a non-governmental organisation that receives no subsidy from the government and selling blood hospitals is the only way to recover costs.

“We provide blood and blood products to public and private hospitals.

“The price varies depending on the blood product required. Our price list is available on our website. We sell a unit of red blood cells – the most common of the products we provide – to private hospitals for R3 739.87 incl VAT and to public hospitals for R2 895.60 incl VAT,” he explained.

These costs are covered by the Health Department in public hospitals while costs in private hospitals are mainly covered by medical aid.

Donated blood is taken through rigorous testing measures which, according Khoza, accounts for 50% of the cost of a unit of blood.

“Storage – which obviously needs to be done under sterile and stringent conditions to safeguard the safety of patients and beneficiaries – accounts for 25% of the cost.

“So 75% of the price we charge for blood is to ensure each and every beneficiary of blood or blood product/patient is provided with the safest, most reliable blood we can provide.”

Blood donor incentives

Although the blood service offers various incentives for the selfless act, they have dismissed claims that one of the perks of blood donation is that regular donors will not be liable for any costs should they need blood in the future.

"We are so grateful to each and every one of our selfless donors for their heroic act in donating, which allows us to help save the lives of countless South Africans,” said Khoza.

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