Families of COVID-19 patients have been struggling for convalescent plasma, even though the state has clocked over 14.5 lakh recoveries since the outbreak. A Bhandup resident, Vishwas Date, tried to solve this problem by simply urging people he knew and those residing in his neighbourhood to opt for donation. Through his efforts, he was able to help 150 people and over 70 people donated their plasma.
Around three months ago, Date learned that a Mumbra-based family was in urgent need of plasma. Date, who is socially active, helped the family and arranged plasma from BYL Nair Hospital with minimal charges. However, he was shocked to hear that the same family had paid Rs 1.5 lakh for the first bag of plasma from the black market. "After some research, I realised that plasma isn't something that should cost lakhs. The machine used to extract plasma is the same as the one used for platelets. It should not cost more than Rs 15,000. However, due to the shortage of plasma, people are being charged exorbitantly," he said.
Date began by sending his friends and people from his neighbourhood to a blood bank in Thane for plasma donation. However, after a while, it had become difficult to find a recovered COVID-19 patient who was willing to donate their plasma. He then approached the civic body for a list of recovered patients.
According to him, the blood bank in Thane was charging Rs 11,000 per bag of plasma. Without arranging for another donor, they refused to give plasma. From one donor, they take 400 ml of plasma, which amounts to two bags. So, he stopped working with them.
Later, he tied up with Aparna Blood Bank in Mulund for plasma donation. On my request, they have reduced the rate to Rs 8,000 per bag of plasma. I also requested them not to stress the patient's family to find a plasma donor, as it is not possible for everyone to arrange for plasma donors quickly.
For those who bring donors along with them, we have reduced the rate to Rs 5,500, as each donor gives two bags of plasma. In the last week of September, the state government had also capped the price of a 200 ml bag of plasma at Rs 5,500.
We generally approach people between 20 years and 45 years. They are young and agree to donate quickly, which saves our time, added Date. In the last two and half months, Date has helped people from Ranchi, Jodhpur, Nagpur, Pune and Satara with plasma.
As per the official data, the blood banks across the state have sold 9,194 plasma units until September 30, while 1216 units were in stock. Finding the donor belonging to the right blood group is extremely difficult, said family members.