PH blood center to launch nucleic acid amplification test in 2019

MANILA — The Philippine Blood Center (PBC) is set to launch next year a quiz that would solve the issue of re-testing done by private hospitals on donated blood.

PBC head Dr. Andres Bonifacio said the nucleic acid amplification test would allow for the detection of applicant donors who are asymptomatic of HIV, hepatitis B, hepatitis C and Zika virus.

“The problem is some people say the private hospitals didn’t receive the blood units from PBC. Republic Act 7719 says PBC is a legitimate source because our blood units come from volunteer donors, and we spend on their quality, so there’s no reason for them to reject those blood,” Bonifacio told the Philippine News Agency (PNA) in an interview.

“(Health) Secretary (Francisco) Duque promised to subsidize the nucleic acid amplification test so the price of the blood will not increase. This is the right time for us to reassert no re-testing because the patients are suffering because re-testing is an out of pocket expense for them,” he added.

In line with the launch of the test, Bonifacio disclosed that the Department of Health (DOH) would issue an order preventing private hospitals from “re-testing” and from asking patients to bring blood donors to their hospitals when they have already secured blood units from PBC.

“It has been approved by Secretary Duque, the executive committee ruling. In lieu of that, we’ll enforce the nucleic acid amplification testing. It’s just that we’re waiting for its releasing,” he said.

Although private hospitals conduct a re-testing of blood from PBC, Bonifacio said private hospitals are not doubting the quality of their blood units.

“This will hurt, I think, this is just for business purposes. If PBC operates for free or gives blood for free it’s because it’s in the law. So, practically blood is free. The reason we ask for the processing fee is to defray for the cost of operation,” he said.

To date, there are only three hospitals offering the nucleic acid amplification test — St. Lukes Medical Center, The Medical City and the Chong Hua Hospital in Cebu. Hence, their blood units and other blood products cost higher, Bonifacio added.

“If you notice, the packed red cell is only 1,500 (pesos) and we don’t intend to increase that processing fee. For platelets and frozen plasma, 1,000 pesos each only. That is very cheap whereas in private hospital red blood cell pack can be up to 5,000 pesos,” he said.

Noting that PBC used to rely on paid blood donors, Bonifacio said the blood banking practice in the country used to be unsafe and the blood supply is inadequate.

“We removed the paid and replacement donors. We now rely on voluntary donors who are the sources of safe blood because they are altruistic. They don’t ask anything in return, so they don’t hide any suspicious behavior, so, they donate out of love,” he said.

Bonifacio added that PBC would also launch stem cell blood banking next year.

“We will share this especially to our marginalized members of the society who have cancer and are poor and sick from Philippine Children’s Medical Center and we’ll start this in the early part of 2019,” he said. (PNA)