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Danger! Blood Bank unable to meet demand: As COVID-19 creates shortage

BY: Hadiza Nuhhu-Billa Quansah
A lady donating blood during one of the community drive campaigns

Of the many challenges the COVID-19 pandemic Of the many challenges the COVID-19 pandemic has created in the healthcare system, the National Blood Service has got its fair share: the blood bank is in dire need of life-saving blood.

Restrictions on social distancing occasioned by the pandemic have affected mass donation of blood across the country, with the National Blood Service currently unable to meet its daily supply of 250 units of blood to various health facilities in Accra.

The development is impacting negatively on the stock of blood at the bank, which is currently unable to meet demand and thereby putting at risk patients who may require blood transfusion in emergency situations for survival.

To remedy the situation, the  service is embarking on a community donating drive to appeal to individuals to donate blood to shore up the reserves at the blood bank.

Transfusion of blood and blood products help and save millions of lives every year. It often becomes the lifeline for patients suffering from life-threatening conditions, as well as supports complex medical and surgical procedures.

The Public Relations Officer, Mr Stephen Addai-Baah, explained to The Mirror that the bank had been compelled by the current situation to reduce the quantity of blood supplied to some of the health facilities.

“Sometimes, we get a request from some heath facilities for about 20 units of blood. However, we can only supply five units because other facilities are also waiting for their supplies,” he said.

He stated that for a place like the Maternity Department of the Korle Bu Teaching Hospital, which required an average of about 150 units of blood a day, it had become practically impossible to meet its demand.

“One pregnant woman alone may require about six units of blood when in critical condition while giving birth,” he stated.

The situation has reached a point where family members of expectant mothers are required to report to the facility on Fridays to donate blood to keep the stock up in order to make blood readily available to these pregnant women when the need arises, Mr Addai-Baah stated.

He said the COVID-19 restrictions imposed by the government had also affected mass blood donation by corporate institutions, schools and churches.

“The restrictions have made it impossible for people to organise blood donation exercises as had always been the norm to beef up the stock at the bank,” he explained.

Mr Addai-Baah said his outfit was looking through its database to track volunteers who were due to donate blood, adding that through their ‘Community Blood Drive’ initiative, the National Blood Service was moving even closer to people in the communities to encourage potential donors to give blood to save lives.

“We had to go to Kasoa and Tema to persuade people to donate. This week for instance, we spent the whole period at Adentan. Our next stop is Achimota where we hope we will get some donors as well,” he said.

Asked how the response had been so far with the community outreach programme, he said donation in Tema was encouraging; however, Adentan was not very good, explaining that some people had high blood pressure, making it impossible for them to donate.

Touching on the new modalities for people to donate given the COVID-19, Mr Addai-Baah said additional forms had been added to the existing requirements where potential donors were supposed to state whether or not they were obeying the protocols of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“It is important for us to know whether a potential donor has come into contact with any person with the COVID-19 virus. Besides, we have to screen thoroughly to ensure the donor doesn’t have symptoms of the virus.

“Once a donor shows symptoms of the virus, he/she must be referred to an appropriate health facility for treatment,” he stated.
Mr Addai-Baah appealed for support by chiefs and assembly members to help encourage people within their communities to donate to save a life.
 
Blood Donor Day
Every year on June 14, countries around the world celebrate World Blood Donor Day.

The event was organised for the first time in 2005 by a joint initiative of the World Health

Organisation (WHO), the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies.

It was to raise awareness of the need for safe blood and blood products, and to thank blood donors for their voluntary, life-saving gifts of blood.

The day is one of eight official global public health campaigns marked by the WHO, along with World Health Day, World Tuberculosis Day, World Immunisation Week, World Malaria Day, World No Tobacco Day, World Hepatitis Day and World AIDS Day.

In many countries, there is not an adequate supply of safe blood, and blood services face the challenge of making sufficient blood available, while also ensuring its quality and safety.

An adequate supply can only be assured through regular donations by voluntary unpaid blood donors.

The WHO's goal is for all countries to obtain all their blood supplies from voluntary unpaid donors by 2020.

In 2014, 60 countries had their national blood supplies through 99-100 per cent voluntary unpaid blood donations, with 73 countries still largely dependent on family and paid donors.