Blood banks run dry - Dr Justina Ansah

Blood banks run dry - Dr Justina Ansah

The National Blood Service (NBS) is in dire need of blood to save the lives of patients on emergency care who require blood transfusion to survive.

The service has, therefore, sent a distress call to members of the public and organisations to voluntarily donate blood to blood banks in the regions to give a lifeline to people who need it to live.

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The Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of the NBS, Dr Justina Kordai Ansah, told the Daily Graphic’s Timothy Ngnenbe yesterday that, currently, the blood centres across the country had had their stocks depleted because of the effects of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19)

Dire situation

She said the situation had reached a crisis point because those facilities could barely meet the demand for blood from hospitals.

“The COVID-19 pandemic has had profound effects on us in terms of maintaining blood supplies. More than 50 per cent of our blood donors are from the educational institutions which have been closed down because of COVID-19.

“Religious organisations and corporate bodies who are also principal donors are currently not available because of the restrictions on movement and this has resulted in acute shortage on containment of blood and blood components in the country,” she said.

Dr Ansah added that in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, members of the public were hesitant to donate blood because of the fear of being infected by the virus.

She said the current situation should be of grave concern to all because children with severe anaemia, women who were undergoing chemotherapy, breast cancer patients and kidney patients who needed dialysis to live risked losing their lives.

Strategies

Dr Ansah added that the NBS had deployed innovative strategies, including the introduction of designated centres for voluntary blood donation at regional hospitals, blood centres and in the communities.

Additionally, she said the service had made a paradigm shift from mass testing to appointment systems where potential blood donors were contacted for scheduled donations.
The move, she said, was in compliance with social distancing requirements to prevent donors from being exposed to COVID-19.

Appeal

In spite of these measures, she said blood donation was still very low because people feared that they could contract the virus in the process.

“I want the public to know that it has not been proven that COVID-19 can be transmitted through blood transfusion or blood donation. More to the point, we have also put in place precautionary measures to contain any potential risk of contracting the virus through transfusion,” she said.

Dr Ansah added that the NBS had also provided personal protection equipment, such as face masks, gloves and hand sanitisers, and had equally put in place health protocols that would guarantee the safety of potential blood donors.

“We want members of the public to know that while we are focusing on COVID-19, there are many people out there who are in dire need of blood to survive so we need to save those lives,” she stressed.

Southern Zone Blood Centre

Meanwhile, the Manager of the Southern Zonal Blood Centre at the Korle Bu Teaching Hospital (KBTH) in Accra, Mrs Shiela Allortey, has said the situation at the centre is critical and needs urgent attention.

She said before the imposition of the movement restrictions on Accra and Kumasi, the centre received an average of 200 pints of blood a day but currently, the total stock was far less than that.

“What we have now can just suffice for one day and that is even because the demand for blood in this COVID-19 era has been a bit low,” he said.

Cape Coast

The situation at the blood bank of the Cape Coast Teaching Hospital is very serious with the bank virtually empty, writes Shirley Asiedu-Addo.

The Public Relations Officer of the hospital, Mr Fred Nyankey, told the Daily Graphic that patients had to bring in relatives and friends to donate blood if their treatment required it.

Mr Nyankey said all outreaches to appeal to people to donate blood had ceased because of the ban on gatherings.

"Schools and institutions that undertook occasional blood donation exercises are all on break due to the coronavirus pandemic. The situation is critical," he said.

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He said in case there was any emergency, such as a fatal road accident that required blood transfusion for victims, there would be a problem.

"There is no blood at the bank. Sometimes, in critical cases we give out blood meant for another patient who may need it at a future date and ask the patient to call in a relative to donate to replace the blood for the owner, " he said.

He noted that before the coronavirus outbreak, some people even just walked into the hospital to donate blood voluntarily.

“Now it is not so. People can't just come to the hospital. Even sick people are afraid to come to hospital because of the coronavirus outbreak.

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"We may concentrate a lot on COVID-19 and lose sight of other health needs," he added.

Eastern Region

From the Eastern Region, Haruna Yussif Wunpini reports that the Regional Hospital in Koforidua, a major referral centre in the region, currently has only eight pints of blood at its blood bank.

According to the acting Medical Director of the hospital, Dr Cardinal Newton, the situation has serious effects on healthcare delivery at the hospital.

Dr Newton emphasised that individuals who visited the facility and needed blood urgently had to either rely on family members or friends to survive.

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“We are currently in difficult times so people should remember that without blood in our bodies we cannot survive on this earth. Let’s begin to walk to the hospital and donate to save lives. Our mothers, fathers, wives, children, friends, relatives and family members will be needing blood urgently,” he stated.

Upper East

From Bolgatanga, Vincent Amenuveve reports that the Regional Hospital at Bolgatanga has difficulty getting blood for patients.

The administrator of the facility, Mr Yakubu Zakariah, said the maternity and the children's wards were the most affected as the patients were vulnerable.

Touching on logistics, Mr Zakariah observed that the authorities were even looking for units of blood they could pay for to enable the hospital to stock its blood bank, but they could not get them to buy.

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