Picture this: Your loved one is fighting for life at a Mahim nursing home after a near-fatal accident in the wee hours and the doctor tells you to get two bottles of rare O-Negative blood.
You rush from a blood bank in Bandra to another in Andheri, but there is no stock. Frantic phone calls reveal that it is available at a blood bank at Breach Candy, in the opposite direction to where you are heading.
What if you can’t make it back to the nursing home in time?
Scary, but there is little choice, considering there are 56 blood banks in the city and no system in place to connect them to hospitals and those in need.
The Maharashtra State Blood Transfusion Council website enables one to search for availability of specific blood types. But not everyone has access to the Internet.
Non-governmental organisation Doctors for You hopes to change that.
The organisation’s Mumbai chapter which comprises more than 250 medical students from state-run, civic and private hospitals as well some engineering and chartered accountancy students, will be setting up a 24/7 call centre where relatives can call to find out which nearby blood bank has stock of the blood group they need.
“There is a huge gap between blood banks and hospitals so patients’ relatives have to run around for blood. In emergency, this is especially distressing,” said KEM resident doctor Ravikant Singh. “We should be able to set up the centre within three months.”
This helpline number is part of the organisation’s national campaign, ‘Safe Blood, Safe India’, which was launched by spiritual guru Sri Sri Ravi Shankar at a Mahasatsang in Sion on Sunday.
The campaign aims to build surplus reserves of safe blood through drives — only 45,32,395 units out of the required target of one crore units of blood was collected in India last year — and increase the rate of voluntary blood donation which accounts for only 40 to 45 percent of blood collection.
While Mumbai has high rate of voluntary blood donation (72 per cent) compared to the rest of the country, it is not enough. “In the West, 100 per cent of the blood requirement is met through voluntary donation. Why should we force relatives and friends to donate?” said Dr Sanjay Jhadav, head of the Maharashtra State Blood Transfusion Council.
Doctors for You has started a pilot project in Bihar, where voluntary blood donation is only 23 per cent. “We are holding awareness lectures in public places and putting up hoardings with messages from 10 political, film, sports and other personalities across Bihar. Dr Abdul Kalam and Sri Sri Ravi Shankar have already agreed,” said Singh.
Doctors for You plans to organise blood donation camps at schools, colleges, workplaces and railway stations in Mumbai, Delhi, Uttar Pradesh and Bihar in the first phase and cover the entire country, eventually.