PETALING JAYA (THE STAR/ASIA NEWS NETWORK) - Blood donors in Malaysia say that private hospitals are charging patients exorbitant prices for donated blood.
They accuse these hospitals of profiting from the goodwill of donors.
Apart from donors, most private hospitals get blood from the National Blood Centre (NBC) at nominal cost.
A check by Sunday Star found that patients requiring transfusion pay between RM160 and RM500 (S$62-S$195) for 350ml to 450ml bags of blood in private hospitals - even if they bring along donors to replenish the blood used during treatment.
Yap Sow Chong, a 56-year-old regular donor from Ipoh, related an incident where a private hospital might have taken advantage of the civic-mindedness of many people.
He said he recently helped to forward a police inspector's plea for blood when the man's wife was warded in the Intensive Care Unit after giving birth.
"With social media, appeals are far-reaching and the response is very fast. In a short time, the queue was so long that donors were asked to return the next day.
"Some blood donors are now asking if the hospital is profiting from the excess blood," he said, adding that his email query to the private hospital went unanswered.
He said a hospital must inform donors once sufficient blood had been collected for a particular patient.
"They must be given the option whether or not they wish to donate to the hospital's blood bank," he said, adding that there were many people willing to help a stranger in need but their kindness should not be abused.
W.K. Ng, a regular donor from Ipoh, said private hospitals must charge reasonable prices because the blood was donated. Moreover, most of them get blood from the NBC at RM30 a bag.
"They should not charge more than RM100 a bag," he said.
"If the government blood bank (NBC) charges a private hospital RM30 per bag to cover staff salaries, costs of test tubes, syringes, testing chemicals, equipment and delivery, there is no profit," said Ng.
"But if private hospitals charge more than RM160 per bag, perhaps they are passing on their operating and fixed costs to patients just like other profit organisations," he said.
K.T. Yew, 57, recalled that a bag of blood already cost RM90 some 18 years ago.
She had an emergency Caesarean section in 1996 and was billed RM270 for blood.
"Recently, my niece had a cyst removed and needed two bags of blood. The hospital bill was more than RM10,000 but we don't know how much was charged for blood as it was lumped under 'medical supplies'," she said.
Academy of Medicine of Malaysia council member Datuk Dr N.K.S. Tharmaseelan said blood was given free at government hospitals.
"In private hospitals, the charges vary. Some even charge as high as RM500 for rare blood groups," said Dr Tharmaseelan, who is a past president of the Malaysian Medical Association.
Penang Hospital Visitors Board chairman Lim Thoon Deong said that most hospitals charged RM250 per bag, which was too high.
Lim, who is also the Penang MCA Public Services and Complaints Bureau adviser, said complaints of unreasonable charges would be investigated by the Health Department medical practice control unit.