Precautions and safety to be observed during blood transfusion
As C-19 engulfed India during the second wave, 29-year-old Laxmi Sahay from Gurgaon, a thalassemia patient, was worried for her life.
She knew that accessing an operational blood Bank / Centre during the lockdown would be difficult as the one she routinely visited had also closed due to shortage of blood.
Pratham Singh also faced a similar ordeal while accessing treatment for his father. Due to a lack of functional blood bank / Centre in his hometown Mohali, they had to temporarily shift to Delhi.
Laxmi and Pratham’s stories are examples of what several patients in need of blood transfusion underwent during those difficult times.
Despite the advances made in the health sector, India is still far from ensuring blood safety and access.
Without a resolution in sight, it can put lives at risk for people suffering from debilitating blood disorders, like thalassemia and cancer.
Accessibility to safe blood transfusions became precarious during the pandemic due to unavailability of resources.
There was an acute shortage faced by blood banks / centres, owing to increased demands and fewer donors. Fearing the virus and restrictions, it was extremely difficult for blood banks / centres to organize blood donation camps and manage resources.
The crisis also forced doctors to make difficult decisions in most cases and postpone transfusions.
Ensuring the safety of donated blood is paramount
Advances in the field of medicine and technology have made it easier for people to access quality blood products.
However, despite recommended guidelines, we continue to see poor testing and screening methodologies which increase the risk of transmission-related illness.
The World Health Organization (WHO) recommends that:
Donated blood must be checked via four antibody tests to screen for Hepatitis B, C, human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) and syphilis.
Voluntary blood donation must also be ramped up. In India, less than 1% of the population donates blood—which is much lower than WHO requirements.
Amongst these, many donors are found ineligible. Since blood cannot be stored indefinitely and there is a constant requirement, we need to bolster awareness campaigns around the same.
Way forward to battle India’s blood shortage
Blood donation is a life-sustaining gift with no other alternative. While there has been an uptick in donations, the demand is still high.
Opening more blood banks / Centres and getting more people to donate blood voluntarily is imperative. Individuals between 18-65 years, with a healthy weight and haemoglobin level, must donate blood voluntarily every three months.
Maintaining safety around the collection and storage of donated blood is also crucial. Donors must always ensure that while volunteering, they choose a licensed blood bank / centres and follow standard guidelines to avoid inappropriate and unsafe blood transfusion practices.
Access to safe and clean blood is indispensable for a strong healthcare system. We cannot afford to have a myopic viewpoint on the same.
Government bodies, think tanks, and private stakeholders also need to adopt sustainable approaches to make clean blood available and ensure adequate supply in rural and urban settings.
Blood banks / centres and hospitals must also be upgraded with the latest technologies and diagnostic standards.
The use of NAT screening should be mandated at the earliest to ensure that every patient has easy and timely access to safe blood.
By Dr Pravas Mishra
The author is Director, Haematology, Haemato-Oncology, Max Hospital Patparganj
(DISCLAIMER: The views expressed are solely of the author and The Health Master does not necessarily subscribe to it. The Health Master shall not be responsible for any damage caused to any person / organisation directly or indirectly)
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