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Blood supplies low, donors afraid to leave home

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Upington SANBS is running out of blood.

THE SOUTH African National Blood Service (SANBS) in Upington indicated that it has less than 50% of its normal blood supply stock as a result of the lockdown.

The donor relations practitioner at SANBS in Upington, Hendrieka Beukes, said blood supplies were very low as donors were afraid to leave their homes.

“We currently only have three days of blood supply on hand, whereas we usually have supply for about seven days,” said Beukes on Thursday. 

“We are an essential service and have to continue giving service to the public and medical institutions. We know that it was announced that selective operations at hospitals will be halted during the lockdown, however, donors have to bear in mind that there are people who are daily reliant on blood donations. Also, the blood is used for plasma.” 

Beukes pointed out that there were also cancer patients who were receiving treatment and were reliant on donated blood. 

“There are also instances where someone might get burnt and needs to receive plasma. Babies are also born daily and those mothers who give birth are also in need of blood. So it is not only patients who undergo operations who are in dire need of blood. There are medical ailments which require a daily blood supply.”

Beukes said that they were especially in need of O-type blood.

“Donors who are O-type donors are very essential as their blood can be donated to any blood group. We are running very low in that blood category.”

She indicated that various measures had been put in place to reach donors and to spread the message on the importance of blood donation.

“Our donor centres are still operating during the lockdown. We have extended our operational hours to curb an influx of people and to adhere to the social distancing regulations. We now operate from 8am until 6pm. We extended the hours to allow donors sufficient time to come to the centre and get back home when it is not too busy. We also sent SMSes, e-mails and made phone calls to donors requesting them to come to the centre to donate blood. We then establish an appointment with them to also make it more convenient for them.”

Beukes added that they had also dispatched their mobile vehicles to different towns and areas.

“Our mobile units are also affected by the lockdown as we can now only pay visits to community clinics. We had to cancel our mobile visits to local businesses and all the high schools as they are closed. We also had to cancel our mobile visits to churches.”

She said that part of their plans to reach donors is to conduct home visits.

“Some donors are afraid to leave their homes in fear that they might get infected. We understood that and arranged to dispatch our staff to their homes where they would be able to donate blood from the comfort of their home and without leaving the house. There are those who have dismissed the gesture but we are grateful to those who have embraced it.”

Beukes pointed out that they would not be in this position if there was no lockdown.

“According to our planner, we were supposed to have visited all the high schools. The blood donations we would have received from the high schools alone would have been sufficient during the Easter holidays. We understand that there are few vehicles on the roads and not many road accidents but we do feel the pinch of the shortage in other areas.”

She highlighted that they were aware of the fears of donors but added that only donors could assist those in dire need during this lockdown.

“We are all afraid. Even our staff risk their health daily to assist those in need and to go out to donors. We also have to be screened daily to ensure we are still healthy. The work unfortunately cannot stop as there are thousands of people who are reliant on  blood. We need each other now more than ever,” Beukes said.

Blood is needed not only in Upington but throughout the Northern Cape and country.

The SANBS yesterday urged all South Africans and their regular donors to keep coming to their aid during the national lockdown.

The non-profit organisation continues to provide the essential service and is pleading with people to donate blood to help prevent their stocks from dropping.

The medical director at SANBS, Dr Jackie Thompson, said their donation sites were regularly disinfected with alcohol, with their clinics and mobile sites equipped with antiseptic sprays and alcohol wipes.

“Importantly, we are also encouraging donors to delay donation if they are exhibiting any flu-like symptoms or signs of infection. In addition, we ask donors who have travelled to countries with known cases to delay their donations for at least 21 days,” she added.