You don’t have to be rich to donate what is most valuable to you

By: Rajiv Tewari

You don’t have to be rich to donate what can only be given by a human being to another human being which is donation of blood to save lives. Donating blood is one of the highest forms of charity.  It can be donated by almost anyone who is healthy and meets the specifications laid down by the medical fraternity. It is safe to donate every three to six months. It is quick and safe, doesn’t hurt & saves precious lives. Blood is recovered very quickly in the body, Plasma volume within 24 – 48 hours, RBC in about 3 weeks, Platelets and White Blood cells are replaced within minutes. 

If all the healthy people were to donate blood even once in a year there would be no shortage of blood which is needed by almost one out of every ten hospital patients, according to several media reports. In spite of being a country of over 1.25 billion people, India alone faces a blood shortage of 3 million units which can be easily resolved if only a fraction of this population begins to donate blood. Government of India is committed to creating access to safe blood through 100% voluntary non remunerated blood donation and has invited suggestions on how to develop a nationally coordinated and well networked blood transfusion service in the country to enable us to meet the global goal of self-sufficiency in blood and blood products. For this to succeed, we need to create awareness through role models who have a demonstrated track record of managing a sustainable model of managing blood donation, quality control and distribution at reasonable rates.

For the purposes of this article I am sharing the story of IMA Blood Bank, Dehradun which has demonstrated beyond doubt how a noble venture can be immensely successful provided it is led by people with a missionary zeal. In the words of Dr Dipak Choudhury, Founder Member, IMA Blood Bank, “the most important elements that have gone through creating our blood bank are honesty, perseverance, dedication and strict financial and administrative monitoring.” 

Inspired vision

Moved by the pain and suffering of a child who was being taken to Delhi with a bleeding leg wrapped in plastic, simply because there was no blood bank in Dehradun, Dr Dipak Choudhury started a movement to create a blood bank by engaging with the local community. What had begun as a small initiative in 1995 has taken the shape of an inspiring institution of an international standard. It works on 100% voluntary donation and has a huge support from the local community due to which it is able to maintain an inventory of over 3500 bottles of blood at any point of time & functions round the clock to serve the patients.  “Once people in the community are made aware of these facts, most agree to donate blood so awareness has a major role to play in ensuring regular inflow of blood supplies”, said Dr Dipak Choudhury.

Power of the mission & its values

The IMA Blood Bank was started with a mission that “no needy patient should ever die due to lack of safe and quality blood in Dehradun and its surrounding areas”. Power of the mission drew the first round of support from the then Hon’ble Governor of Uttarakhand, Sudarshan Aggarwal in 2002 who encouraged the idea of creating a blood bank in Dehradun during an annual convention of IMA. Dr. Bhim S. Pandhi, Dr. Mahabir Singh, Dr. Alok Ahuja, Dr. Rakesh Kalra, Dr. Ashok Luthra and AVM HL Kapoor, Former Lieutenant Governor of Delhi volunteered to join hands with Dr Dipak and donated Rs. 10,000 each to form a society. There is an old saying that the moment one definitely commits oneself, then providence moves too. Support followed from several sources. Land was given by ONGC. The Hon’ble Governor of Uttarakhand, Shri Sudarshan Aggarwal and the then Chief Minister of Uttarakhand, Shri N. D. Tiwari extended financial and administrative support. The blood bank was inaugurated on 30th May, 2006, by the Vice President of India, Shri Bhairon Singh Shekhawat as Chief Guest who flew down all the way from Delhi, Shri Sudarshan Aggarwal, Governor of Uttarakhad, Shri N. D. Tiwari, Chief Minister of Uttarakhand & Shri Tilak Raj Behad, Hon’ble Health Minister of Uttarakhand, as a Guest of Honour in the presence of a large gathering of people from all walks of society. It’s important to

Engaging with the masses

Dr Dipak shared that the IMA Blood Bank has developed a social marketing team headed by a manager level person along with a team of five field staff members. Their prime objective is to educate the students in different professional institutions, colleges, workers and officials of the factories, staffs of government and non-government organizations about the voluntary blood donation & the myths of blood donation. The social marketing team has developed a donor insurance policy that covers the donors too in case they need blood for themselves or their family members. The social marketing efforts have resulted in a very enthusiastic response in terms of volunteer registrations who are a great help in organizing blood donation camps. Another innovative way of communication is by nominating well known and respected names as brand ambassadors. It is very important to professionally market as well as manage the whole process from selling the idea to collection and distribution of blood. 

Ensuring financially sustainability

“Most of the machines in our blood bank are rental based so that upfront cost of purchasing the machines is not there. We have a large volume of blood donation so we can negotiate best prices for the reagents along with free or nominal priced rented equipment. As volumes have grown, our focus is to try to reduce the costs through renegotiations or choosing competitors among the vendors”, said Dr Dipak Choudhury.

Due to strict financial vigilance by the governing body IMA Blood Bank is able to reduce the administrative costs as well as wastage of the blood components as well as the available manpower resources. To generate additional funds the surplus plasma with the bank is being given to M/s Reliance Life Sciences who have aligned with the cause and are giving regular support by paying a good rate. In short the IMA Blood Bank operations are managed by learning and implementing from the best management practices. Its quality standards have been approved by the NABH (National Accreditation Board for Hospitals & Healthcare Providers & ISO 9001-2008. It is the only blood bank in Uttarakhand to pass through the stringent procedures of NABH.

Road Ahead 

The IMA Blood Bank, Dehradun team is keen to share its knowledge base and contribute to any individual or organization with a similar mission. Dr Dipak Choudhury is looking forward to co-operation from the ministry of education to incorporate blood donation in the educational curriculum from K. G. to class XII in CBSE, ICSE and higher levels to sensitize the youth and to inculcate the spirit of volunteer ship from an early age.

Media can play a major role in creating a higher level of awareness about blood donation by acting as a communication platform between the doctors’ community & the masses to remove the negativity created by a lot of misinformation. This will encourage more and more people to come forward and donate blood. 

Based on an interaction with Dr. Dipak Dhar Choudhury, Founder, Indian Medical Association (IMA) Blood Bank, Dehradun.