Health Minister Terrence Deyalsingh yesterday said it was unfortunate three people, including an eight-year-old boy, had been infected with HIV after receiving blood transfusions from contaminated blood at the National Blood Transfusion Service.
He sought to assure the public all three transfusions came from the same pint of blood and there was no risk to the entire blood supply.
He added it was not the first time incidents with blood transfusions had occurred in this country.
Deyalsingh was speaking with reporters following a workshop on domestic violence hosted by the Pan American Health Organisation and the World Health Organisation at the Hilton Conference Centre in St Ann’s.
“This also happened in 2007 and 2014,” Deyalsingh said.
In 2014, he said, a female patient was given the wrong type of blood and shortly after she began to experience itching and other symptoms, indicating something was wrong.
That matter is currently before the courts, he added.
No medical director since 2011
Deyalsingh pointed out the previous incidents occurred under another minister.
He added the blood bank was in need of proper leadership, as there has been no medical director since 2011.
The ministry has since appointed haematologist and former blood bank director Dr Waveney Charles to act in the position for the next few months until a permanent arrangement can be made.
“There are structural deficiencies that we are trying to fix,” Deyalsingh said.
Deyalsingh also reiterated protocols have been established to prevent a recurrence of contaminated blood transfusions.
He said blood tested positive for HIV is now immediately discarded rather than kept for further testing.
He added that following an investigation, anyone found to have been negligent would be held to account.
On Thursday, Deyalsingh told the Express Attorney General Faris Al-Rawi had advised him to refrain from disclosing information on whether the three infected contracted HIV from contaminated blood at the National Blood Transfusion Service.
He said counselling has been provided in an “unfortunate situation”.
“The patients have requested confidentiality. They have requested anonymity. The AG (Faris Al-Rawi) said not to give out information. It was limited to one pint of blood. There was no contamination with the rest of the blood. We have reviewed all the protocols and changed the way the blood bank does business.
“Previously samples which were tested positive would be kept, then split in two for further testing. Since this has happened, we have taken a decision to reverse the policy, acting on the advice of the CMO (Dr Roshan Parasram). Any sample that is tested positive is immediately destroyed.”
Chaguanas West MP Ganga Singh had raised the issue in the House of Representatives on Wednesday, and Deyalsingh said then the matter was being fully investigated.
—with reporting by Michelle Loubon