Blood bank seeing increase in collection
EDWARDS HENRY... I do believe that a number of the unions and member organisations have been stepping up, as it relates to the giving of blood

AMID the constant appeal for more Jamaicans to donate blood, the National Blood Transfusion Service (NBTS) saw a steady increase in the blood unit collection across the island between the periods 2016 and 2019.

Statistics obtained from NBTS — in time for World Blood Donor Day which is being celebrated today under the theme ‘Donating blood is an act of solidarity. Join the effort and save lives’ — showed that 28, 271 units were collected in 2016; 32,088 units in 2017; 33,268 units in 2018; and 33,294 units in 2019.

The data also showed that up to 2020 there were more than 33,000 units collected. The Jamaica Observer tried to obtain statistics for 2021 but was told that information was not yet available.

“The numbers have been increasing. The dip was in 2020 because of COVID-19 but the projection for 2021 is between 35,000 and 38,000, so there is steadily an increase every year,” said assistant blood donor organiser at NBTS, Keishawna Pinnock.

Medical officials, meanwhile, said they were not surprised at the upward trend in blood unit collection.

According to president of the Nurses Association of Jamaica (NAJ), Patsy Edwards Henry, additional blood drives would have contributed to the increase in blood collection.

“When you look at it, there are a lot of blood drives. I do believe that a lot of the unions and member organisations have been stepping up as it relates to giving of blood, and encouraging persons and their member organisation to also give blood. I am not really surprised in the uptake of blood,” she said.

FITZ HENLEY... social media has become more prominent and so you are able to share when there is a need, whether it is personal or just in general

At the same time, Jamaica Medical Doctors Association (JMDA) President Dr Mindi Fitz Henley told the Observer that she was not surprised at the increase in blood units as social media has helped in attracting more blood donors.

“In the years gone by social media has become more prominent and so you are able to share when there is a need, whether it is personal or just in general. What you find happening a lot now is that if one person hears that there is a child, for example, who needs blood urgently, it can be shared in big way on social media and very quickly you will have random people showing up to give blood,” she said.

“I am sure when the figures come in for 2021 you would likely see that there was an uptick in that, as you know, people had personal drives that they were doing, people were going with their friends, they just wanted to give back in some way in trying to help the helpless. I think that did help us quite a bit,” she added.

Fitz Henley pointed out that even though more people have been willing to donate blood, there is still an issue with accessibility of the ‘blood bank’ (NBTS), which limits their ability to give blood.

The NBTS’s opening hours are Mondays to Thursdays from 8:00 am to 4:00 pm, 8:00 am to 3:00 pm on Fridays. It is closed on weekends.

“There are still some challenges where the times of the blood bank opening is still a huge issue for many persons because, as you can imagine, that’s during work time so you would literally need to go on your lunch break. Unfortunately, the blood bank staff are also on their lunch break so you end up going and have to wait quite a bit. And on weekends it’s very limited — there might be one or two spots that are open and that’s mainly in the Kingston and St Andrew region,” she said.

Additional information obtained from NBTS indicated that negative blood types O-, A-, B-, AB- are usually in deficit, which it said is due to them being rare nationally and globally, along with donor hesitancy.

Despite the shortage, the medical officials have expressed commendation to those who have ramped up their efforts in donating blood to help save lives, especially regular donors who give blood every three months.

“In the same group of persons who tend to give every three months, quite a few of them are O-. Once they’ve hit their three-month mark, they jump in once they see that there is a need for O-. We are really encouraged by what we are seeing in terms of people’s willingness to give back, and that’s one thing COVID-19 has showed us, that people are willing to give to help each other in times of need,” said Fitz Henley.

Edwards Henry said limiting violent activities and road accidents would help preserve blood collections for those in serious need.

“If we can decrease the number of accidents that we have on our roads, if we can decrease the need that occurs out of violence, then that is going to be a big help to people who are actually sick and would need the blood because of long-term, chronic illnesses, acute illnesses,” she said.

Blood units collected, NBTS said, are usually from people in age groups 25 to 50 who show greater support at voluntary blood drives.

“Outside of this, all ages come in as replacement donors — persons who donate for a specific person or reason,” the NBTS said.

For World Blood Donor Day last year, 94 Jamaicans registered and 67 units of blood were collected during the NBTS blood drive that day.

BY BRITTNY HUTCHINSON Observer staff reporter hutchinsonb@jamaicaobserver.com

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