Health Minister Dr Jane Ruth Aceng

The Uganda Blood Transfusion Services (UBTS) faces the challenge of under-funding as it carries out its mandate of providing adequate and safe blood across the country, minister of health Jane Ruth Aceng said recently in a statement.

According to the minister, UBTS requires extra Shs15 billion to support blood collection services. UBTS was allocated only Shs17.5 billion in the 2017/18 national budget.

“Non-wage allocation to UBTS is so inadequate and cannot support blood collection operations,” the minister told members of parliament recently.

UBTS’s annual procurement plan for medical supplies is Shs24 billion to collect and test 240,000 units of blood but only Shs7.88 billion was allocated to the organization this financial year.

According to the minister, it costs US$40 to collect, process and issue a unit of blood, meaning that UBTS needs Shs 39.467 billion to process 240,000 units of blood this financial year.

“Fear is that NMS as per 2017/18 budget shows that the annual budget allocation is already exhausted in the first quarter. This means there wilol be no supplies for subsequent quarter,” she says.

The organisation also faces challenges of paying its staff given that it embarked on institutional growth to provide efficient services. It was only allocated Shs2.7 billion for staff wages out of Shs3.6 billion it had asked for, leaving a shortfall of Shs0.87 billion.

However, the minister said high demand, inappropriate clinical use of blood in hospitals, unethical conduct, inadequate staffing, unnecessary blood transfusion and poor storage are responsible for scarcity of blood.

UBTS runs a network of seven regional blood banks in Arua, Fort Portal, Gulu, Kitovu/Masaka, Mbale, Mbarara and Nakasero. UBTS also operates eight collection centres in Hoima, Masaka, Kabale, Rukungiri, Jinja, Lira, Angal and Soroti. It also has 22 mobile blood collection teams attached to regional blood banks.

According to WHO recommendations, any developing country is supposed to collect blood equivalent to 1 percent of its total population. Given that Uganda’s population is currently estimated at 40 million people, this translates to 400,000 units of blood as UBTS annual blood collection target to sustain blood requirements for transfusion in health care facilities.