Saturday August 20, 2022

World Blood Donors Day 2022: Voluntary blood donors being turned away due to shortage of collection bags

June 14, 2022

KARACHI: Blood banks are being compelled to turn-away hundreds of volunteers and blood donors across Pakistan as they are facing an extreme shortage of ‘blood collection bags’, which are used to collect donors’ blood and blood components, The News learnt on Monday.

“For last six months, we are facing shortage of blood collection bags. If we need 200 blood collection bags, we are getting only 100 to 120 bags from the suppliers at exorbitant rates. We are compelled to turn away dozens of volunteers and donors on daily basis, who become highly de-motivated and often don’t visit the blood bank again”, Mehdi Rizvi, administrator of Muhammadi Blood Bank in Karachi said.

Around half a million people donate blood annually in Sindh, Sindh Blood Transfusion Authority (SBTA) Secretary Dr. Durr-e-Jamal said, adding that voluntary blood donation is around 12 to 13 percent, which means that around 60,000 to 70,000 people voluntarily donate blood every year in Sindh province.

Like rest of the world, Pakistan is observing World Blood Donors Day 2022 on Tuesday and for 2022, the World Blood Donor Day slogan is “Donating blood is an act of solidarity; Join the effort and save lives” to draw attention to the roles that voluntary blood donations play in saving lives and enhancing solidarity within communities.

Renowned hematologist and Secretary General of Omair Sana Thalassaemia Foundation, which relies on voluntary blood donations for blood transfusions to Thalasaemic children, also claimed that there was an extreme shortage of blood collection bags in Karachi and they were not been able to collect adequate bags of blood to transfuse it to the children with genetic blood disorders.

“Children with Thalassaemia and other blood disorders are suffering as we are facing difficulties in collecting blood for them due to shortage of blood bags. JMS blood collection bags, which are supplied by S Ejazuddin and Co in Pakistan, are product of choice but they are not available in required number. Other brands of blood bags are also not available in the required quantity”, Dr. Ansari maintained.

There are around 160 blood banks registered with Sindh Blood Transfusion Authority (SBTA) and many of them also confirmed that due to problems in the supply of blood collection bags for last five to six months, they were unable to collected the blood in the required amount and provide it to the patients and their attendants.

Dr. Saqib Ansari further claimed that in addition to shortage of blood collection bags, increase in the prices of these bags was also an important issue as every time they send their staff to buy these bags, their price is increased and companies site devaluation of rupee against dollar as increase in the prices of these essential devices.

A representative of the “S Ejazuddin and Co” when approached conceded that there was a shortage of blood bags globally, saying their supplier in Singapore is unable to meet the global demand and added that due to devaluation of the currency, they were compelled to increase the prices of these bags. “But we are trying our best not to make them unaffordable and very nominal increase is being made. There is a global shortage of blood collection bags and it is affecting everybody including us in Pakistan”, the company representative, who requested anonymity said.

To a query, he said these blood bags were registered with Drug Regulatory Authority of Pakistan (DRAP) but added that they were deregulated so the regulator had no control over its prices.

An official of the DRAP in Islamabad said they were not aware of the shortage of blood bags but assured that they would do an inquiry into it on Tuesday and they would do everything possible to ensure their availability in the required number in the country.

Sindh Blood Transfusion Authority (SBTA) Chairperson Dr. Durre Naz said she was aware of the complaints that prices of blood bags was being increased due to devaluation of rupee against dollar but added that they were not aware of the shortage of blood collection bags.

“If blood collection bags are not available adequately, it would definitely hamper the blood collection campaigns in the country. Although this issue does not come into our domain as we are a regulatory authority but we do our best to resolve this issue as early as possible”, she added.