Blood trans­fu­sion pouches get costlier post GST

The pouches, priced ear­lier at Rs 900, cost Rs 1,200 un­der the new tax regime.

The Sunday Guardian - - Nation -

The price of blood trans­fu­sion pouches has risen by 3% after the im­ple­men­ta­tion of the Goods and Ser­vices Tax (GST) regime and this has ad­versely af­fected poor pa­tients across the coun­try. The pouches, priced ear­lier at Rs 900, cost Rs 1,200 un­der the new tax regime.

The Min­istry of Fi­nance has fixed a GST rate of 12% on most es­sen­tial drugs, in­clud­ing blood trans­fu­sion pouches, against the ear­lier rate of 9%. The new tax slab has se­verely im­pacted poor pa­tients.

Be­sides the blood and car­ry­ing pouch, the GST on HB (Hae­moglobin) kit has been fixed at 18%; ear­lier it was 5.5%. GST on glass slide is 18%, ear­lier it was 14%, while Test Tab (for read­ings) is now charged at 18% against 14.5% ear­lier. GST at 12% is be­ing charged on tracer tape, ear­lier it was 5.5%.

Ro­hit Bhalla, pres­i­dent of the NCR-based non-profit Ro­tary Blood Bank, told The Sun­day Guardian: “After the in­tro­duc­tion of the new tax regime, blood re­lated sup­plies were also brought un­der the am­bit of GST. Post GST, rates for red blood cell pouches have in­creased from Rs 1,050 to Rs 1,350. The Min­istry of Fi­nance has also levied 12% GST on blood car­ry­ing bags; these were ex­empted un­der the pre­vi­ous tax regime.”

“After the im­ple­men­ta­tion of GST, not only have the prices of blood trans­fu­sion pouches shot up, but the prices of al­most all es­sen­tial medicines have gone up, mak­ing the lives of the poor even more mis­er­able. My or­gan­i­sa­tion, the Ro­tary Blood Bank, pro­vides free blood to poor pa­tients in need,” Bhalla said.

Ac­cord­ing to the World Health Or­gan­i­sa­tion (WHO), as of July 2017, there are a to­tal of 2,903 blood banks in the coun­try or less than three blood banks for ev­ery 10 lakh peo­ple and most poor pa­tients for blood trans­fu­sion rely on pri­vate blood banks. These pri­vate blood banks usu­ally sell blood trans­fu­sion pouches at a higher price than that pre­scribed by rules.

Jayesh Mehra, a se­nior res­i­dent doc­tor at Max Su­per Spe­cialty Hospi­tal, told The Sun­day Guardian: “GST has in­creased the cost of most med­i­cal equip­ment. The cost of dial­y­sis has in­creased for kid­ney pa­tients as hos­pi­tals are pay­ing 12% tax on a dial­y­sis ma­chine, tubes, dial­y­sis nee­dles, catheter, plasma fil­ter, dial­y­sis fluid and blood trans­fu­sion pouches. The ear­lier tax slabs on these items were be­tween 5-9%.”

“The fact is that around 210,000 pa­tients across the coun­try suf­fer from kid­neyre­lated prob­lems an­nu­ally and re­quire trans­fu­sion of blood. The dial­y­sis process be­com­ing costlier is just an ex­am­ple of how hard pa­tients have been af­fected due to higher tax rates. An­other dis­ease re­quir­ing blood is Tha­lassemia,” Mehra added.

The Na­tional Blood Trans­fu­sion Coun­cil and the Na­tional AIDS Con­trol Or­gan­i­sa­tion are two apex bod­ies in the coun­try re­spon­si­ble for all is­sues re­lat­ing to the op­er­a­tion of blood banks.

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