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June 14, 2016

Business of substandard, unscreened blood continues to haunt population


June 14, 2016


There are nearly 150 public and 450 private blood banks operating in the country and well over 60 per cent of the total private blood banks are either unregistered or unlicensed and unregulated due to which business of substandard and unscreened blood has been haunting the population for years.

It is unfortunate that in Pakistan, blood donation rates are less than one per cent whereas if one per cent of a country’s population donates blood, it would be sufficient for country’s needs. 

At the existing level, shortage amounts to as much as 40 per cent.

Over 90 per cent of total blood transfused in Pakistan is donated by the friends and relatives of patients while around 10-20 per cent of blood supply is still donated by professional donors.

Pakistan’s annual blood transfusion requirement is approximately 1.5 million bags, with the 40 per cent of the demand being met by the public sector. Blood transfusion services in Pakistan are mostly hospital- based. Proper blood storage and transportation facilities are not available in many of the country’s public and private sector hospitals, leading to the wastage of a significant proportion of the collected blood.

Head of Community Medicine at CMH, Lahore Medical College Professor Dr. Muhammad Ashraf Chaudhry expressed this while talking to ‘The News’ in connection with World Blood Donor Day being observed on Tuesday (today) around the globe.

The theme of this year’s campaign is “Blood connects us all”. It focuses on thanking blood donors and highlights the dimensions of “sharing” and “connection” between blood donors and patients.

The slogan for the year 2016 campaign is ‘Share life, give blood’, to draw attention to the roles that voluntary donation systems play in encouraging people to care for one another and promote community cohesion.

Pakistan has a high burden of thalassemia as according to estimates, not less than 5,000 children are born with the disease each year and 70,000 patients across the country are registered with the problem. According to Professor Ashraf, most services for these patients are provided by private blood transfusion services by non-governmental organizations.

He said that factors responsible for low blood collection include lack of education and awareness about the need of safe blood in the community and importance of voluntary unpaid blood transfusion (VUBD) and high prevalence of Hepatitis B, C, HIV/AIDS, anemia and lack of blood donor requirement and retention strategy.

He said the transfusion of blood and blood products helps save millions of lives every year. 

It can help improve life expectancy and the quality of life of patients suffering from life-threatening conditions, such as thalassemia, haemophilia, anaemia, cancer, kidney failure, dialysis, bleeding after child birth, cardiac bypass surgery and supports complex medical and surgical procedures.

He said the unavailability of blood in a number of cases leads to death and many patients suffer from ill-health because of transfusion of unsafe blood. Providing safe and adequate blood can be termed as an integral part of every country’s health care policy and infrastructure. 

All donated blood should be screened for HIV, hepatitis B and C, and syphilis and malaria prior to transfusion, said Professor Ashraf.

He added that in Pakistan, most blood banks in the public sector screen blood for HIV and hepatitis B and C as a standard policy while WHO recommends also screening for syphilis and malaria in the basic blood screening criteria.

To a query, he said media should be used to raise awareness about voluntary blood donation. Misconceptions about blood donation should be removed. There is no truth in this assumption that blood donation results in weakness of the body. Any person between the age of 17 and 65 years and weighing 50kg or more can donate blood at least three times a year. 

However, donor should not be suffering from some serious disease like hepatitis B, C and HIV/AIDS. He should not be addict, he explained.

He said that there are a hundred of excuses not to donate blood, but thousand reasons to do so. Being an adult is not only about enjoying your rights but also about fulfilling your moral duties. Half an hour of your time can save three lives, he said.

He explained that after donating blood, you replace the fluid in hours and the red blood cells within four weeks. It takes eight weeks to restore the iron lost after donating blood. There are 10 units of blood in the body of average adult. For a whole blood donation, one pint is collected. You should drink plenty of fluids during the first few hours following the donation, he said.

It is important that blood donations have short shelf-life, so regular donors are essential to secure a constant supply. Blood is most precious gift that anyone can give to another person – the gift of life. Regular blood donors are individuals donating at least twice a year, on a regular basis.

Regular, voluntary, unpaid blood donors are also the safest group of donors as the prevalence of blood borne infections is lowest among these donors, said Professor Ashraf.

He added that giving blood regularly may itself be good for you. It has been ascribed potential health benefit in coronary artery disease. It also gives personal satisfaction. Donors who give blood voluntarily and for altruistic reasons have the lowest prevalence of HIV, hepatitis viruses and other blood borne infections, he said.

He, however, added that unnecessary blood transfusions should be avoided. Unnecessary transfusions and unsafe transfusion practices expose patients to the risk of serious adverse transfusion reactions and transfusion-transmissible infections including HIV, hepatitis B, hepatitis C and syphilis. Unnecessary transfusions also reduce the availability of blood products for patients who are in real need of it, said Professor Ashraf.

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