Sanjay Gandhi Postgraduate Institute of Medical Sciences (SGPGI), Lucknow, one of the most prestigious medical institutions in the country, has refused to provide blood transition facility to over 500 thalassemia patients, who need blood replacement every fortnight to survive.

Incidentally, Lav Agarwal, joint secretary, Union Health Ministry, while addressing a press briefing on Thursday, said, “The Union Health Ministry had issued a detailed guideline on April 9 for blood transfusion.”

“The Hon’ble Union Health Minister has told in writing to state health ministers that people with thalassemia, haemophilia and sickle cell anaemia type blood disorder regularly need a blood transfusion. So, it should be ensured that they should get a blood transfusion in a proper and uninterrupted way,” Agarwal noted.

For now, it seems that states have turned a blind eye to the central government’s request.

A patient who visited SGPGI, Lucknow on Thursday said, “I came here today along with a donor for a blood transfusion but the doctor asked me to leave as the facility has been closed down.”

About a dozen thalassemia patients were dependent on the hospital daily. The shutdown has impacted over 500 patients who don’t know where to go now.

“The doctor told us that thalassemia patients might carry COVID-19 infection in the hospital and infect the doctors. That is why they have closed the department,” another patient, on condition of anonymity, said.   

When contacted, Shubha Phadke, Head of Department, Thalassemia Ward, SGPGI, admitted that the blood transfusion services have been discontinued but attributed another reason for it.

“The hospital has converted the thalasemmia ward into COVID-19 block for Coronavirus infected patients. We can’t entertain thalassemia patients as they are vulnerable to infection,” Phadke said.

Pravir Arya, President, Thalassemics India Society of Lucknow, said he doesn’t have any objection if the hospital has converted the Thalassemia Ward into a COVID-19 ward but the state government should make some alternative arrangement.

“When we speak to Chief Medical Officer in Lucknow, he doesn’t offer any solution,” Arya said.    

Phadke claimed that the UP government has made arrangements at various locations for blood transfusion but patients have denied these claims.

“No alternate arrangement has been made. Private hospitals either don’t entertain or charge over Rs 2,500 per transfusion,” a patient said.

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