Red alert for patients as Bengaluru blood banks run dry

Red alert for patients as blood banks run dry in Bengaluru

Covid blow

There is a severe shortage of blood for transfusion due to the pandemic.

Thousands of patients with blood disorders are enduring a nightmarish time due to a severe shortage of blood for transfusion, as donors are keeping away from blood banks citing the spurt in Covid-19 cases.

Gagandeep Singh Chandok, president of Thalassemia and Sickle Cell Society, said there were more than 2,500 persons seeking blood transfusion in Bengaluru as per a conservative estimate.

"Apart from this, there are people with other blood disorders, including cancer, who require blood every 15 days or once a month. I have come across cases where transfusion has been delayed from two days to a week. The situation is getting worse every day," he said.

Delay in transfusion for thalassemia patients leads to drop in hemoglobin levels, which will compromise their immune system and make them vulnerable.

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"Many are now forced to bring their own donors. I am fortunate to have two donors. However, there are so many people in rural areas without contacts and access. What will they do?" Singh asked.

As per the World Health Organisation, 1 per cent of the population is the blood requirement of a specific region. 

In pre-Covid-19 times, the Indian Red Cross Society (IRCS), Bengaluru branch, collected more than 4,000 units (350 ml per unit) of blood every month. Even relatively smaller agencies like Rotary TTK Blood Bank collected about 3,000 units per month.

S Naganna, chairman of IRCS Karnataka branch, said the collection in their branch has dropped to 871 units in April. "In May, due to political leaders organising blood camps, the collection went up to 2,040. It was still 50-60 per cent of our regular collection," he said.

"As Covid-19 cases are spiking, no measures are enough to convince the donors. We are in the unfortunate position of saying no to those seeking blood. For blood disorder patients requiring transfusion, unavailabilty of blood can lead to severe problems," said Namitha A Kumar of Rotary TTK Blood Bank.

Naganna said many patients with blood disorder may even succumb due to delayed transfusion. "The problem is that we do not keep count of such tragedies. Now that the entire focus is on Covid-19, we won't even get to know about such incidents. We are trying everything possible to boost collection," he said.

Streamline collection

Namitha said the present system for blood collection needs to be revised with an emphasis on need rather than convenience. "At present, the government has arranged for donors to provide blood at the nearest bank. Instead, donors have to be brought to banks where there is need," she said.

She called upon resident welfare associations, apartment associations and other institutions to come forward to arrange safe blood donation.