Following Maharashtra Health Minister Rajesh Tope’s appeal on March 27 for donating blood due to a possibility of shortage in the coming days, officials from the state on Sunday (April 12) said that they have enough quantities in blood banks now.
Tope, during a live interaction on Facebook said, “Blood supply is required not just for coronavirus patients, but also for people suffering from other illnesses.”
Concurring the health minister’s appeal, Dr. Neelam Nijara, Secretary, Federation of Bombay Blood Banks, said, “There was a kind of situation where we were facing a blood shortage for the last few months. Especially, since the COVID-19 spread has begun. But currently, all the blood banks (in the state) are managing well.”
She said that the hospitals have shunted the regular patients & surgeries which is an important reason for a dip in the requirement.
“Only patients of Thalassemia and cancer who require a periodic blood transfusion are demanding for blood now. Apart from that, emergency surgeries demand blood,” said Dr. Nijara.
However, she pointed out that the decrease in the number of road accidents did not make any huge dent in the blood requirement.
The state authorities have also issued special guidelines to be followed for blood donations during the nationwide lockdown imposed in a bid to curb the spread of the highly contagious coronavirus. These guidelines include additional questionnaires about travel history and ways to gauge COVID-19 like symptoms.
“There is a usual shortage of blood in summers as people travel a lot and are also hesitant due to climatic conditions,” Jaysingh Vishwakarma, Director of Mumbai-based Boriwali Blood Bank told The Federal.
“The donations have reduced and so is the demand. We used to issue 50 to 60 blood bags per day during normal times, but since the lockdown, the requirement has come down to just 5 to 10 bags a day. Thus, we have now asked people to not take any new blood camps,” he said.
Vishwakarma explained that the new guidelines issued by the government are being strictly followed to ensure safety, however, there is no addition of new tests.
While sharing his experience of blood donation amid the lockdown, Pune-based theatre practitioner, Rugved Soman said, “I learned about the shortage in the news and then decided to donate. I had to take an online appointment and then the hospital sent me the registration details on my mobile phone which made my travel to the hospital easier. I had proper permission if at all cops stopped me.”
“It felt like I made some good contribution to society in the time of crisis,” he added.
Apart from just maintaining the stock of blood having the right samples is also important. “Excessive storage may result in wastage of blood. So we are not keeping up with a full capacity but ensuring that we have enough supply,” said Vishwakarma, adding that maintaining a balance of stocks on the basis of blood groups is vital.
Another blood donor, Dr. Swasti Rao, a professor at Aligarh Muslim University, said, “People are usually ill-informed about the blood donation and its practices. There is a fear to even go out and especially to the hospital these days. However, if proper precautions are taken donors should be safe even at such times.”
Blood banks in India
According to the data made public by the health ministry, India has 3321 registered blood banks that have collected around 1.24 crores of units of blood in the year 2018-19.
Uttar Pradesh (348) has the most number of blood banks in the country, followed by Maharashtra (340) and Tamil Nadu (310), while all the other states and union territories have enough banks to cater to their needs.
Dr. S Subash, Head of Department, Transfusion medicine in Madras Medical college told The Federal that their blood bank used to issue around 200-300 units of blood bags to the patients each day while the collection was about 80 bags per day.
“The collection has come down to just 5-10 bags per day while the issue is somewhere between 15-20 units,” he said.
A similar trend expected to be seen across the country as the lockdown will have the same effect everywhere.