An image of an ambulance with a fabricated claim about a nationwide toll-free number to deliver blood to one's doorstep is going viral on social media. It states that the 'Blood on Call' service has been launched in India with 104 as its helpline number.
It also claims that one bottle of blood would cost Rs 450 and an additional Rs 100 for transport.
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An archive can be seen here.
The claim was also being shared on WhatsApp and we received a query on our tipline.
Is 104 helpline really a 'blood on call' service?: In 2014, the Maharashtra government launched its health programme 'Blood-on-Call', which worked across the state and not nationwide.
How did we find out about 104 helpline service?: We conducted a keyword search which led us to news reports and Maharashtra Public Health Department's website which enlisted '104' as the 'Blood on call' toll free telephone in 2014.
An article from 7 January 2014 by english daily The Times of India stated that 104 has been issued as a toll free number for blood transportation service in Maharashtra by Aundh Civil Hospital, Pune.
It also mentioned that per bottle of blood will be charged Rs 450 for a minimum distance of 10 km.
Next, we also found Maharashtra Public Health Department's website that stated 104 to be a toll free number for Blood on call, Health Advice and Novel Corona Virus (COVID-19) State Level Control Room.
'104' helpline in other states: On performing a keyword search about the 104 toll-free number, we found out that it was being used in multiple states for different services.
We found an article published on 13 July 2017 by an English newspaper The Hindu, which stated that the '104' medical helpline is operated by the GVK Emergency Management and Research Institute (EMRI) and Tamil Nadu Government.
EMRI's website also stated that 104 helpline is a Health Advice Helpline active in Tamil Nadu, Gujarat, Goa and the Administration of the Union Territories of Daman and Diu and Dadra and Nagar Haveli.
Another TOI report from 3 May 2017 stated that Gujarat's Health Department launched 104 service as a 24-hours fever helpline across the state.
The government of Assam's Health and Family Welfare department had also launched 'SARATHI 104' as a Health Information Helpline Service.
Is 104 'Blood on Call' service still active in Maharashtra?: We reached out to the Maharashtra State Blood Transfusion Council, and they informed us that the service provided under 'blood on call' via 104 toll-free number was discontinued in the state in March 2022.
Moreover, we did not find any news reports or updates on the central government's website for such a nationwide service of providing blood.
Clearly, a now-discontinued ‘blood on call - (104)' service from Maharashtra is being falsely shared as a nationwide service.