12:24 AM

Blood transfusion kits bought ten months before date of expiry

od transfusion kits, Dr. Jayalath Jayawardena, MP, said that he would bring this to the notice of the WHO.

Although the racket was initially believed to be confined to the National Blood Centre at Narahenpita, Jayawardena claimed that he had been able to gather enough evidence to suggest that the use of outdated kits was widespread.

In a brief interview with "News-Lanka", he said that he would meet the Resident Representative of the WHO based in Colombo today (22), to brief him of the situation. The Sri Lankan Health Minister is the Chairman of the Executive Committee of the WHO.

Health Minister Nimal Siripala de Silva couldn’t simply wash his hands off this criminal negligence of responsibility on the part of the Health Ministry, the MP said. The interdiction of four personnel, including the director of the National Blood Centre wasn’t adequate, he said, emphasising the urgent need to conduct a comprehensive survey to ascertain the impact of the use of outdated blood transfusion kits on both blood donors and receivers.

The Gampaha District MP said that the Health Secretary, Dr. Athula Kahadaliyanage had ordered the interdiction of personnel on the recommendation of the Public Service Commission (PSC).

Responding to our queries, he said the police were reluctant to investigate the incident as they believed the government was behind the racket. According to him, after receiving information of the involvement of an ambulance driver attached to the Kandy General Hospital in the racket, he had visited the Matale Police as the suspect lived there. "Matale Police were reluctant to act on my information. They wanted me to seek the assistance of the ASP in charge of the area," the MP said.

Referring to the recent admission by Police Chief Jayantha Wickremaratne that the public had lost confidence in the police, particularly its emergency services due to the lethargic attitude, the MP said that subsequently, on the ASP’s intervention, Matale police had searched the suspect’s home before declaring that there was nothing suspicious, the MP said. The MP who had accompanied the police, joined the search and quickly founds two bags full of pieces of blood transfusion kits. The recovery was made in the presence of the suspect’s son. Subsequently, the suspect had surrendered to Matale police and was remanded after being produced before a Magistrate.

The MP said that he had also received information to the effect that outdated kits were kept at the blood crosschecking lab of the Kandy General Hospital. "But I was unable to check the lab, as its keys were with a labourer as claimed by the Senior Medical Laboratory Technician," he said.

He said that outdated blood transfusion kits had been used on both donors and patients at many hospitals, including Kandy General, National Blood Centre, National Hospital, Anuradhapura and Kamburugamuwa in the Matara district.

A senior health ministry official said that Jayawardena shouldn’t seek political mileage by targeting the minister. Fielding questions, he said, he accused the National Blood Centre bosses of misleading the minister when the print and electronic media revealed the use of outdated kits. He said that the Bribery Commission had initiated an investigation while the Auditor General too, was conducting inquiries.

Both Jayawardena and the official admitted that the crux of the issue was the acquisition of a large stock of blood transfusion kits, which were just ten months short of being outdated. They said that the ministry could order stocks with a three year life time. The MP said that the ministry, after ordering an old stock which would have financially benefited the powers that be, had distributed them to hospitals.