Less than 1%, or 390 000, of South Africa’s population currently donates blood, resulting in the national blood stock supply hovering at less than 2 days, according to the South African National Blood Service (SANBS).
According to Graham Anderson, Principal Officer and CEO at Profmed, the medical scheme catering exclusively to graduate professionals, this presents a critical risk for patients who require blood, particularly during extreme periods such as high accident rates during the New Year period. “Initiatives such as National Blood Donor Day are helpful in order to raise awareness of the need for donation, however, it is vital that new supplies are sustained throughout the year.
“Donating blood is a simple, yet lifesaving act. Thousands of people require blood transfusions each day, yet with stocks remaining critically low, any sudden increase in demand can have a significant impact on the stocks available.”
Anderson notes that research has shown that the majority of donated blood is given to either victims of accidents, women who haemorrhage during childbirth, children with severe anaemia, cancer patients and surgical patients.”
He says one way to mitigate the problem of limited blood supply during the year is to constantly inform new and regular donors where they can donate blood, as well as how serious the current situation is. “With the SANBS needing to collect around 3000 units of blood per day to meet the demand of patients in South Africa, it is important that possible donors are regularly informed of donor centres and drives throughout the country.”
“Previous years have seen blood stock levels fall to alarming levels after the volume of national road accidents surged to great numbers, especially during holiday periods. Although we welcome the decrease in road accidents over the 2014/5 holiday season, a lack of supply continues to present enormous challenges to the SANBS,” says Anderson.
“It is the duty of all stakeholders to play a part in raising awareness of this need,” says Anderson. “Whether it is the SANBS, medical doctors and medical schemes, all can play a role to facilitate a dialogue that encourages and empowers people to become blood donors. Furthermore, as people can donate blood every 56 days, it is also crucial that regular donors are regularly informed as to when they can donate again.”
Anderson adds that the actual blood donation procedure is quick and simple. “All someone needs to do is complete a questionnaire related to health and social behaviour, participate in a one-on-one interview, and once iron levels and blood pressure are checked, blood may be donated.”
“Critical injuries and illness can be managed better, and many fatalities avoided, through regular blood donations. While the procedure is simple, if we do not encourage more people to prioritise the donation of blood, we could face a significant problem in the future,” concludes Anderson.