The South African National Blood Service (SANBS) has called on the public to donate blood, as there has been a serious shortage since the country opened for activity during level 1 lockdown, with the pandemic restricting public blood donation programmes.
The SANBS is calling eligible donors to help reach the daily collection target of at least 4000 units of blood, while also asking leaders at companies, churches, universities and schools to make their venues available for blood drives.
In a statement, the organisation said: “Blood stocks have dropped to critically low levels. The immediate impact is an inability to issue blood in emergencies and the possible loss of lives. We need healthy donors to give blood now.”
The shortage is due to schools, universities and corporates – which were the biggest contributors to blood collection – no longer being permitted to station blood drives on their property, said the blood service’s Dr Karen der Berg.
She said the service had ample supply of blood during the hard lockdown as surgeries were postponed and fewer injuries requiring blood transfusion were reported.
“Hospitals were consumed by Covid-19 patients and people did not go to hospital unless they absolutely had to. In the private sector, those who had planned for surgeries such as hip replacement, back operations and tummy tucks didn’t go for the procedures because there were no beds.”
“But now that the first big wave is gone, and beds are available in hospitals, we see the private sector having a big uptake on the use of blood. However, zero schools are allowing us in and universities are difficult,” she said.
Corporates, which were also a huge contributor to blood donations, were no longer a viable option as a lot of staff were still working from home or prohibited the blood service from gaining access to their premises in an attempt to contain the spread of Covid-19.
Regular donors, however, could only donate once every 56 days, she said.
“This situation with Covid-19 is not something we have faced before. The inability to go to where donors are to collect blood from them is something new. In the whole of 2019, we were able to ensure a continuous supply of more than five days, meaning each order placed was filled. Now we are in a situation where we have to send letters to hospitals that we are running short and they need to be careful and avoid requiring more blood.”
The SANBS appeals to potential donors to visit their website or social media pages to locate their nearest blood donation site.
SANBS spokesperson Khensani Mahlangu said they were seeking alternative solutions to increase blood supply.
“We’ve thought of going to churches as well as filling stations on major routes. We do get people who are willing to help us and it’s a big deal. We need all the help we can get,” she said.