Nov 29, 2008 News
Three blood donor organisers have been fired without explanation, even as Health Minister Dr Leslie Ramsammy yesterday sought to justify reports of large amounts of blood being dumped by the National Blood Transfusion Service (NBTS).
The three senior staff members of the NBTS, who preferred not to be named, said they were not told why their services have been terminated. They were informed of the decision in a letter signed by the new Director of the NBTS, Dr Narine Singh, yesterday afternoon.
The three workers had been on duty for the past three months at the blood bank, and their main task was to solicit blood donors, mainly carrying out blood drives.
None of them was paid for the period they worked. The sacking of the three workers of the NBTS came hours after Dr Leslie Ramsammy, at a press conference, said that they were employed without permission.
The employees said they went through the usual employment procedures, including an interview with the previous director of the NBTS.
They said they agreed to take up their respective positions because they were urged to do so, since there was a dire need for blood donor organizers at the time.
However, they have not been paid. Dr Ramsammy yesterday promised that the workers would be paid “shortly.”
“They can be paid today, but they will have to leave the job; either that or you wait until the process is complete,” Ramsammy declared. In the letter the three workers received, they said, there was a promise that they will be paid.
Meanwhile, Minister Ramsammy was up in arms about a report carried in Kaieteur News regarding the dumping of blood by the NBTS.
He said that the report that focused on the systematic problems with the management of blood collected by the Blood Bank was irresponsible. However, Dr Ramsammy himself admitted to the challenges facing blood management.
“We collect blood in this country in a way that is not the most efficient,” he declared. The Kaieteur News report stated that NBTS could not store the volume of blood it is collecting, and as a result some of the blood was being discarded.
Dr Ramsammy said that blood banks the world over dispose of blood that is spoilt. He even resorted to distasteful language in venting his anger at the report when he spoke at another event earlier in the day.
“If there is a reporter that will report that story in such a way, I challenge that reporter to name me a ‘goddamn’ blood bank in any place in the world that does not discard blood!”
However, when pressed, he admitted that the dumping of large amounts of blood was not satisfactory. He added, though, that this does not happen on a consistent basis.
When told of reports that as much as 200 units of blood were dumped (in October) he said, “It is not acceptable at one time.”
The source of the report about the problems with blood management at the NBTS was the 2008 Action Plan of the United States President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief, PEPFAR, which allocated US$1.2M to help the Ministry of Health meet the challenges it faces with the management of blood.
However, Dr Ramsammy said that this document does not exist, and described the report as “foolishness.” At the same time, he did respond to a question regarding the use of the funds as stated in the PEPFAR document, namely, that there be training for physicians, so that they do not waste blood, as is happening.
Dr Ramsammy said this training is an ongoing five-year programme.
Part of the PEPFAR money was to be used to monitor the amount of blood doctors order for blood transfusions, while continuing pre and in-service training for clinicians in the appropriate use of blood.
The Minister of Health was adamant that the NBTS has the capacity to store as many as 10,000 units of blood, as is the target for the Ministry of Health. The PEPFAR action plan noted that the country needs 15,000 units of blood per year.
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