The Delhi government will set up a plasma bank to help COVID-19 patients in the city, announced chief minister Arvind Kejriwal at a press conference on Monday (June 29). It is likely to be the first such bank in the country.
The plasma bank will operate largely like a blood bank and will be set up in the Institute of Liver and Biliary Sciences (ILBS) hospital in south Delhi. A patient can avail the services only after it being recommended by a doctor. Patients admitted in both government and private hospitals can avail the services of the plasma bank, the chief minister said.
Plasma therapy involves injecting blood-component plasma extracted from a cured coronavirus patient into a positive case. The plasma of a cured patient is considered to carry virus-fighting antibodies which boost the immune system’s response to the disease. Plasma is the almost-clear liquid left behind after red and white blood cells and platelets are removed from the blood.
“There is high demand for plasma therapy among people. Around two months ago, we were one of the first states to start plasma therapy trials. In the first phase, we conducted plasma trials on 29 patients (in Lok Nayak hospital). The results are good. It has been observed that plasma therapy helps stabilise respiratory rate of moderate to severe patients and it can save lives. But it cannot save patients with multi-organ failures, those in extremely severe conditions,” said Kejriwal in a press briefing.
He further detailed the process of availing these services and said, “The Delhi government has decided to set up a plasma bank in ILBS Hospital. This will probably be the first plasma bank of the country. Any COVID-cured individual would be able to donate plasma and active COVID patients admitted in both private and government hospitals would be able to avail it. But only a doctor can recommend plasma therapy and it cannot be randomly sought by any COVID patient. After recommendation, the concerned hospital has to inform ILBS for plasma.”
The chief minister said that the government is working out the modalities of the plasma bank and they shall be finalised in another two days.
“This will streamline the plasma therapy system in the city. The arrangement is in ILBS hospital because it is not a COVID hospital. The donors are safe and they will not be infected again. The government will also be paying for their conveyance,” said Kejriwal, urging more COVID-19 recovered patients to donate blood plasma in the coming days.
The government is to also set up a helpline through which potential plasma donors can call. Health officials will also use this helpline to reach out to recovering COVID-19 patients and request them to donate plasma.
Jugal Kisore, head of community medicines department in Safdarjung Hospital, welcomed the move but expressed concern about burdening the infrastructure of ILBS hospital by making it the sole centre for plasma collection. He advised that the government should rather create a set of plasma centres in the coming days to ensure that there is no excessive stress on the infrastructure of one particular hospital.
“Availability of plasma is a big issue. So far, both private and government hospitals which got approval for plasma therapy on COVID-19 patients maintained their own plasma banks. A centralised system would streamline the process and enable better monitoring, better data management and grievance redressal. However, having one such bank for the whole city can put excessive stress on the concerned hospital. The government, in the coming days, should create a network of plasma banks by setting up more facilities in accordance with locations of COVID-dedicated hospitals in the city,” Kishore said.
Last week, the chief minister had said that plasma therapy in Lok Nayak Hospital has helped reduce death rate by around 50%. Data shared by the government on Sunday (June 28) showed that the government hospital witnessed 51 deaths in the week between June 20 and 26, as against 100 deaths recorded between June 6 and 12.
The Delhi government has also got the Centre’s approval for 200 more plasma therapy trials, following which they also roped in the Rajiv Gandhi Super Speciality Hospital.