Blood bank ‘critically low’

The blood bank at Princess Margaret Hospital (PMH) is running “critically low” on its supply of blood, Minister of Health Dr. Duane Sands said yesterday.

Sands attributed the increasing demand to the “epidemic of violence” in the country. 

In recent weeks, the Public Hospitals Authority (PHA) has put out several calls for blood donations.

“When we look at the number of units of blood donated and the number of units of blood required, there’s a mismatch,” Sands told reporters. 

“So to give you specific information, last year we would have collected just over 3,600 units of blood. We would have had about 5,600 people go in and donate or attempt to donate and from that 5,600 we were able to get 3,600 units of blood. 

“Now only 20 percent of blood donations are voluntary. The overwhelming majority of people who donate go in because mommy needs a unit of blood, daddy needs a unit of blood, my wife, my husband, etc.

“If you look at the demand between 2017 and 2018, we would have had 1,500 patients that had gunshots, stabbings, assaults, etc, requiring blood [and] another 1,500 with motor vehicle accidents. 

“That doesn’t include cancer patients, kidney failure patients, etc. When we move to 2018/2019, the number is roughly the same, about 1,300 and 1,300.”

Sands noted that while the demand on the blood bank is huge, the current number of voluntary blood donations are not enough.

“The consequence right now is the blood bank is pretty dry and so we need all Bahamians, everybody, take a little time to give the gift of life,” he said. 

In March, Sands told The Nassau Guardian that data compiled by the PHA detailing incidents of violence presented at PMH and Rand Memorial Hospital in Grand Bahama from 2013 through 2018, painted a picture of an “epidemic of violence” with those facilities treating more than a combined 11,000 assaults, rapes, stabbings and gunshot wounds in that time.

The information further illustrates the strain the country’s main hospitals have been under to deal with high levels of violence that health officials have been highlighting in recent years.

Sands added yesterday, “We run critically low most of the time. Bear in mind that after a blood drive, we’ll top up and get to an acceptable level, but relative to the demand, relative to the clinical need of the country, we’re always kind of just hanging on and I think this is an issue of volunteerism.

“The clarion call needs to be that we have to be our brother’s and sister’s keeper and to recognize that that unit of blood that is needed could be the one that you need in order to save your life.”

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Sloan Smith

Sloan covers national news for The Nassau Guardian. Sloan officially joined the news team in September 2016 but interned at The Nassau Guardian while studying journalism at the University of The Bahamas. Education: Vrije Universiteit Brussel (University of Brussels), MA in Mass Communications

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