PETALING JAYA (The Star/Asia News Network) - Private hospitals have denied profiting from donated blood although they charge patients a minimum of RM160 (S$62) for a bag of blood, regardless of where they get it from.
Association of Private Hospitals of Malaysia president Dr Jacob Thomas said that the charge was meant to cover mandatory blood scanning costs.
He stressed that the 110-member hospitals did not sell blood for profit.
He said a charge of about RM160 for a bag of blood was approved by the Health Ministry.
"The fee is to cover the high cost of testing, scanning, processing and storing the blood.
"The aim is not to make a profit but to ensure that blood is delivered to patients in a safe and timely manner," said Dr Thomas, adding that a good blood bank facility cost millions of ringgit.
Those who felt that they were charged excessively could lodge a report with the ministry, he added.
He said even if a patient brought along donors, there was still a charge for processing the blood.
"Donors are requested to help replenish the blood used. Whatever extra we have is used for the next patient or in emergency cases," he said.
Dr Thomas added that hospitals were not allowed to pay donors for blood but could offer incentives such as free screenings.
He said that hospitals without their own blood bank relied on the National Blood Centre (NBC).
NBC pathologist Dr Maizura Mohd Fathullah said the centre supplied blood to government hospitals nationwide for free but imposed a small fee on private hospitals.
She said that mandatory screening was costly, especially when new technology such as Nucleic Acid Amplification Testing was used.
On average, the NBC needed about 500 bags daily.
She also said that long festive breaks and school holidays were "especially dry" periods, with many regular donors going out of town.
"There is a continuous demand for blood transfusion from bleeding patients involved in road accidents, child birth and surgery, and for cancer, thalassaemia and haemodialysis patients.
"There is no such thing as selling blood - we only collect and distribute it," she said.
Dr Maizura said the national transfusion policy did not allow directed donations except in special circumstances.
"(For example) when a patient has a rare blood type, the only option is to transfuse blood from a family member," she said, adding that blood had a short shelf life.