Coronavirus crisis: Blood donors to be asked about health status for Covid-19
Blood donors are now asked for the health status, including symptoms of the coronavirus disease (Covid-19), but they are not being tested for it even as the numbers of cases cross 6,500.
Despite the lockdown, there is no shortage of blood and its components as requirement for trauma cases and elective surgeries have gone down substantially.
“We have started thorough screening of all donors; they have to fill up a detailed form informing about their health status and also details such as their Covid-19 status, or if anyone they knew had tested positive, or someone in their neighbourhood had any Covid-19 like symptoms. We are doing our own risk profiling before allowing them to donate,” said RK Jain, secretary general, Indian Red Cross Society (IRCS).
With the number of blood donation camps in summer months going from 35, on an average, to none in Delhi since lockdown was imposed to contain the pandemic, the ICRS is reaching out to individuals to motivate them to donate.
The ICRS has recently tied up with residents’ welfare associations and plans to send mobile-collection vans to residential colonies from Monday. Since the government has declared blood as an essential supply on Thursday, vans for blood collection can move without restriction.
“We reached out to our voluntary donors individually, arranged pick up and drop for them, and even forwarding short videos of children who need regular blood transfusions to motivate these people to come out and donate blood. I have been issuing passes to ensure their movement isn’t hampered in any way. In areas where there were multiple donors, we would even send our mobile van,” says Dr Vanshree Singh, director (blood bank), IRCS.
“Since elective surgeries are not happening, and trauma cases have gone down, what we these days are getting is request for blood from people who undergo regular blood transfusions, such as people suffering from thalassemia and other blood disorders, chemotherapy patients, anaemic pregnant women etc. By and large, we managed to stay afloat due to demand from a particular set of people going down that compensated for the reduced blood donations,” says Jain.
With the Centre issuing an order declaring blood services as essential services, the society will start holding blood donation camps by sending mobile blood collection units to various localities across Delhi from Monday.
“…addressing concerns of those running blood centres and blood transfusion services, especially regarding concerns with managing safety and adequacy of blood during this period of restrained gatherings and social distancing… it is essential that the supplies of safe blood continue to be maintained at licensed blood centres in the country. Activities for blood collection and voluntary blood donation therefore are required to be continued judiciously during this period to meet the blood requirements,” said Union health ministry recommendations to states on April 9.
Blood banks the world over are dependent on voluntary blood donations from healthy individuals to demand for blood and its components. “We are tying up with various residents’ welfare associations to park our blood collection vans near residential localities so that people don’t have to travel long distances to donate blood. And at the time we will follow all infection control and social distancing measures such as two couches instead of the earlier practice of four to draw blood. There will be at least 3 metre gap between the two couches and at one time there will be no more than three people allowed in the camp. The vans will be disinfected on a regular basis,” says Singh.
Apart from the camps, the society will also run a fleet of cars to pick up donors from their homes, take them to the blood donation centre and drop them back home again.
The news of donation camps being held will put a lot of harried minds at ease. “The challenge is that thalassemia patients need fresh blood, which should ideally not be more than five to seven days old. The guidelines say less than two weeks old because if the blood is older, the haemoglobin doesn’t rise enough in these patients. So holding camps will help as donors otherwise have to go to a hospital and donate. We alerted patients that they should try to arrange for donors, should such a problem arise,” says Shobha Tuli, founder, Thalassemics India.
Dr RN Makroo, president, Indian Society of Transfusion Medicine, says that many of the blood banks have started pooling in resources. “We are sharing the supply because this is an extraordinary situation. We also tell regulars to try and inform the centre in advance of their arrival preference and requirement, so that the centre is prepared to make adequate arrangements.”