Is blood cost justified?

With the National Blood Services of Zimbabwe (NBSZ) charging $135 for every blood unit supplied to Government hospitals and about $180 per unit for blood supplied to private health institutions, most people are of the opinion that the prices are too high. The cost is seven times higher than that in other African countries.

According to a paper by Antonieta Medina Lara, James Kandula and Imelda Bate published in the Journal of Clinical Pathology, most African countries sell a unit of blood at below $60.

“The cost of (producing) a unit of blood from a centralised system (blood service) was estimated to be $25 in Uganda and $40 in Rwanda (and this is sold to hospitals at $39,60 and $57,68 respectively,” states the paper.

Blood is produced at $12,40 a unit and sold for $12,82 in Zambia while it cost $15,64 to produce a unit which is sold for $16,66 to hospitals in Malawi.

Hospitals in Tanzania pay at least $18,49 per unit for blood produced at $17,36.
However, NBSZ public affairs manager Ms Esther Massundah said the local high prices were justified.

“In the period 2009-2012, NBSZ was able to charge a reduced fee of $80 to health institutions because of grants we received from Government and its resource partners.

“However, since a year ago, grants from Government and resource partners have not been sufficient and this has resulted in NBSZ reverting to full cost recovery of $135 per unit of blood for all health institutions,” said Ms Massundah.

NBSZ blames debtors for the blood cost.
State hospitals are the major debtors and they owe the company over US$1,6 million.

“Since Government is our main customer, their failure to pay for services and products affects the cash flow as well the ability of NBSZ to pay our suppliers of critical items such as blood bags and test kits. This poses a risk to the supply of blood,” said Ms Massundah.

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