As the details of an alleged transfusion of contaminated blood to patients continue to be unravelled the Minister of Health Dorcas Makgato has assured the nation that her ministry will take all necessary steps to prevent reoccurrence of the incident. Briefing parliament on Wednesday about the matter, Makgato indicated that her Ministry was not exempting itself from responsibility but Makgato quashed reports that the blood was contaminated with syphilis and accused news publications who reported details to that effect for ‘sexing the story up’. “While we are not exempting ourselves from responsibility, please note that during the old days, when there were no test kits for Treponema palladium, blood was kept at 4 degrees Celsius for a period of 3-5 days and would be deemed safe,” said the Minister.
She described the incident as just a ‘ mishap’ and not an everyday occurrence. “ As Ministry we take quality of our work seriously and are guided by best practices and international standards,” she said. The minister further dismissed comments by some Members of Parliament who accused her ministry of having tried to sweep the matter under the carpet and being stingy with information, saying that her Ministry was one of the most transparent ministries there is. Narrating details of the incident to parliament, Makgato stated that on Thursday 11th February 2016, during a routine quality check and audit trail at the laboratory of the National Blood Transfusion Center (NBTC) in Gaborone, it was detected that 8 samples of blood were contaminated.
According to the Minister the matter was immediately elevated, and a verification and investigation process was immediately instituted, where it was discerned that five of the related units had already been dispatched to two health facilities being Princess Marina Hospital and the Scottish Livingstone Hospital in Molepolole. Taking a further stance against reports that blood recipients might have been infected with syphilis from the Treponema palladium contaminated blood, the Minister validated her points by explaining that for testing, the National Blood Transfusion Center uses highly sensitive and specific tests called Enzyme-Linked Immunoassay normally referred to as ELISA for HIV 1 and 2, Hepatitis B, Hepatitis C and Treponema Palladium which can cause syphilis.
She explained that her ministry instituted a post- verification, as it was critical to identify both donors and recipients of the blood for a number of reasons which include to institute thorough investigations and to provide prophylactic treatment. Makgato further explained that the Treponema Palladium which can cause syphilis infection is treatable and curable by antibiotics such as Penicillin, and can survives under cold temperatures of 4 degrees Celsius for 3-5 days. “ The blood units stayed in the cold room for a minimum of nine days,” she said. According to Makgato the Ministry has taken the stance of prophylactic treatment to all the concerned patients who received blood transfusion and to continuously monitor them as a precaution for possibility of infection. “I however assure you that nobody was infected with syphilis,” said the Minister.