80% of stored blood used up; city stares at acute shortageUpdated: May 17, 2020 23:09 IST
The city is on the verge of facing acute blood shortage as the current blood storage across blood banks is likely to suffice only ten days. This is a result of donors staying away from hospitals and blood banks in fear of contracting Covid-19.
Mumbai generally requires 900 units of blood a day, but the number has dipped to 400 units a day since the outbreak of Covid-19 and the subsequent lockdown. Officials at the State Blood Transfusion Council (SBTC) said that almost 80% of stored blood across the 58 blood banks in the city has dried up.
The shortage came to the fore last week when Nashik resident Suwarna Pawar, 25, had to wait for four days for a foetus blood transfusion at Wadia Maternity Hospital. The seven-month pregnant woman had rushed to the Parel-based hospital on Wednesday after the foetus was diagnosed with a rare-genetic disorder and immediately needed blood transfusion. However, the hospital didn’t have his blood group O- (negative).
“My blood group is A- (negative) and my child is O- (negative). We kept searching for blood for four days. Finally, doctors transfused blood on Saturday. I thought I would lose the child,” said Pawar who is still undergoing treatment at the hospital.
In another case, Sohini Mazumdar, 38, a patient of thalassemia — a blood disorder wherein the body produces less haemoglobin — struggled for four days to arrange one unit of blood. “I need blood transfusion every 15 days to survive since my body can’t produce enough blood. If I don’t get blood on time, I may even die. Arranging for blood is my monthly struggle, but the pandemic has made it worse,” said Mazumdar.
While all elective surgeries have been put on hold for the moment, the blood shortage crisis is likely to worsen once the government allows surgeries.
In view of the state government’s rule that mass gatherings at one place will not be permitted, all major blood donation camps between March and May have been cancelled. With no alternative in sight, SBTC is planning to organise micro-blood camps in housing societies by adhering to physical distancing measures.
“At present, we have a stock of around 10 days. Sometimes, willing donors who want to donate get stopped by police. Though demand for blood in accident cases has decreased owing to the lockdown, patients suffering from cancer, thalassemia and haemophilia are facing a lot of trouble,” said Dr Arun Thorat, in-charge of SBTC, Maharashtra.
Two days before the nationwide lockdown was imposed on March 25, Maharashtra health minister Rajesh Tope had appealed to citizens to donate blood in light of a shortage of blood.
Blood Donors India, which works with the Union health ministry, said people’s response on social media platforms has decreased by almost 40%. “The crisis is not only in Mumbai but across the country. Earlier, we would get around 15-20 requests from the city, however, the response is far less now as people are scared to even go near hospitals,” said Balu Nayar, founder of the group.
Another bottleneck is the lack of manpower to efficiently operate blood banks round the clock. “Many staffers who stay in far-off areas like Nalla Sopara or Virar are not coming to the hospital since the lockdown. As a result, there is not enough staff to arrange blood donation camps,” said a blood donation official from King Edward Memorial (KEM) Hospital, Parel.
In view of the pandemic, it has also become harder for hospital administrations to reach out to patient’s relatives for blood.
“If anyone wants to donate blood, they can call on the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) helpline number — 1916 — to get details about their nearest blood bank. All blood banks are given special instruction to main sanitation and physical distancing norms,” said Dr Thorat.
With growing awareness about convalescent plasma therapy, people are seeking blood from people who have recovered from Covid-19. As HT reported earlier, convalescent plasma therapy involves injecting patients with blood plasma from recovered patients. In this process, the plasma with antibodies is transfused into an infected person to boost his immunity response to Sars-Cov-2, which causes Covid-19.
In the last one month, Blood Donors India has received around 20 such demands from Mumbai. “Once, we get such requests, we tweet about the post and circulate it on social media platforms requesting recovered patients to come forward to donate their blood for plasma therapy,” said Balu Nayar, founder.