For PGI, another Herculean task: Soliciting blood donors

Thalassaemia patients are prioritised; 350 registered patients receive 20-25 units of blood daily
Volunteers donating blood at PGIMER’s blood donation centre.
Volunteers donating blood at PGIMER’s blood donation centre.
Updated on Apr 12, 2020 11:14 AM IST
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By, Chandigarh

A 17-year-old travelled 140 km from Saharanpur to PGIMER Chandigarh to get two units of blood. Suffering from thalassaemia, he needs blood transfusion every 20 days. However, amid the Covid-19 contagion, the blood bank of Postgraduate Institute of Medical College and Research (PGIMER) is finding it a formidable task to meet the growing demand for blood amid diminished donation.

NGO workers and staff of PGI’s blood transfusion department are making hundreds of calls every day to those in the list of volunteer blood donors and organisations. On regular days, PGI’s blood donation van goes to the field and collects blood units. But amid lockdown, the department has started bringing donors to PGIMER instead. The only silver lining is that while the collection of blood has decreased by a third, the demand for blood has also diminished for the time being.

Dr RR Sharma, head of the blood transfusion department, PGIMER, said: “Blood supply has been hit because of the lockdown, but at the same time routine surgical interventions have been postponed, leading to some decline in demand, too.”

“We are making hundreds of calls trying to get people to come here and donate blood. About 40% agree to donate, while the rest have apprehensions about coming here in person,” said Dr Sharma.

Thalassaemia patients are their priority, he said, followed by women in gynaecology wards, cancer patients and those in emergency (trauma or urgent surgical intervention). Doctors are also worried about Covid patients, who may need blood in case their condition worsens.

There are 350 people who are registered with the Thalassaemic Charitable Trust, PGIMER, and they are supplied with 20-25 blood units daily. After that comes the gynaecology department (15-20 units), followed by cancer patients and trauma.

Rajinder Kalra, president of the trust, said: “Of the 350 thalassaemia patients here, 18 undergo blood transfusion daily here. We are managing with help from PGI’s blood bank and volunteers.”

Advocate Ajay Gupta, who is running an NGO is a volunteer supporting PGIMER’s blood bank. “I have a data of 10,000 blood donors from tricity and we approach them daily via social media, encouraging them to donate blood. They are afraid but we win their confidence,” he said. Thrice every week, he manages to arrange for 12 donors to visit the PGIMER.

Thankful of such volunteers, Dr Sharma said: “We are grateful to those who come forward and donate. I assure them that the blood collection area is completely safe.”

Screening is done meticulously and once given the go ahead, a fully sanitised van with a seating capacity of 50 is sent to pick 15 blood donors, he said.

“Around 40 people donate blood every day, 30 of who are voluntary donors, PGI staff and patient’s attendants and enable us to meet daily requirements,” said the doctor.

Earlier, against the demand of 300 units (blood and blood components), 500 units were collected by PGIMER, but currently, demand has reduced to about 80 units, while the collection has come down to 100-150 units.

“Many thalassaemia patients bring a donor with them, like the 17-year-old did on Thursday. On the coming Monday, one patient is coming from Poonch for two units of blood and we will ensure he gets it,” said Kalra.

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