Monday, January 24, 2022

Panic as Botswana blood stocks run low

Botswana is running dangerously low on stocks of donor blood and doctors will start delaying surgeries ÔÇô the Ministry of Health revealed this week.

Chief Laboratory Scientist at the Ministry of Health, David Matema confirmed to the Sunday Standard that stocks of donor blood have hit critically low levels and the country is falling to meet its blood demands. He revealed that the blood bank was receiving about 21 000 fewer donors than required to maintain its supply levels. Botswana needs 40 000 units of blood annually, but the ministry is failing to meet half of the demand and the number of donations has been declining steadily over the years.

“We need 40 000 units of blood every year to meet the needs of patients across the country. But we are not meeting the requirements. For instance in 2009 the maximum we had was 23000 units but the figure has been decreasing. In 2011 we recorded 16 000 units and last year we had had 19 000 units.

Basically we are not meeting our requirements,” he said. He further revealed that the blood inventory or blood bank is at a level where doctors “would have to delay surgeries.”

The ministry has launched campaigns in churches and schools in a bid to attract more donors and is a sending bulk SMS message to donors encouraging them to come forward. Matema expressed concern at the shortage of donated blood in the country saying if there is no blood the result is loss of lives.

So serious is the situation that the Ministry of Health was forced to open new blood donor centres across the country in August this year. The Ministry was also forced to introduce autologous blood collection for patients at Princess Marina Hospital in Gaborone.

An autlogous blood collection is a situation where patients donate blood for themselves for future use before surgery.

Blood transfusion is usually given to mothers suffering complications from pregnancy and childbirth. It is also given to patients for the treatment of severe childhood anaemia and road accidents victims.

“We used to have centres in Francistown and Gaborone only but we have now opened centres in Molepolole, Serowe, Maun and Mahalapye in August this year,” said Matema.

He said they have set themselves targets for each newly opened centre. ‘We want each centre to collect 100 units per month and each year we want each centre to have 1200 units,” he said.

Commenting on the autlogous blood collection at Princess Marina Hospital, Matema said “Initially the blood donated has been stored in one blood bank but we have seen it fit that we come up with autlogous blood collections.”

Matema added that “For now the project at Marina is for patients; not that everyone can just walk in and donate blood.”


Read this week's paper