People donate blood at Huế Central Hospital in the central province of Thừa Thiên-Huế.— VNA/VNS Photo Mai Trang
On the 20th anniversary of ‘All-people blood donation day’ (April 7), director of the National Institute of Haematology and Blood Transfusion (NIHBT) and member of the National Steering Committee for Voluntary Blood Donation Bạch Quốc Khánh spoke to Vietnam News Agency about the voluntary blood donation movement, during the COVID-19 pandemic which has deterred many from going to blood drive, leading to a serious shortage.
As a member of National Steering Committee for Voluntary Blood Donation, which directly organises and directs blood donation drives, what do you think about the voluntary movement?
The blood donation movement in Việt Nam has seen many milestones, as it has reached every corner of the country, from the big cities to remotest disadvantaged areas of the country. The movement had made great achievements in ensuring blood supply for hospitals and healthcare centres across Việt Nam, as well as helping to improve people’s understanding about blood donation. However, we still face difficulties in ensuring a stable blood supply, quality of the donated blood and the sustainability of the movement.
What are the difficulties?
At present, the donated blood is insufficient in terms of both quantity and quality. The volume of donated blood can meet about 80 per cent of demand for emergencies and treatment at hospitals. In cases when there is not available donated blood, the hospitals have to ask for blood from patients’ family members or paid blood donors.
The blood donation is not stable depending on periods of the year and areas. For example, most of the donated blood is received in major centres/hospitals in urban areas where blood demand and usage are high. This leads to the phenomenon that people in other areas have less chance to access the blood resources of the same quality.
Another difficulty is that localities tend to call for blood donation on special occasions like Youth Month in March, “All-people blood donation Day” on April 4 or International Day for Blood Donors on June 14, while blood should be donated all year round.
Diseases and natural disasters pose more difficulties for the blood donation activities, for example, during the COVID-19 pandemic, blood shortages have been seen in hospitals across the country.
Việt Nam still has few repeat blood donors or regular blood donors, while they are the group that can give safe and high-quality blood. Localities pay little attention to encouraging all people to donate blood, instead, most of the blood donors now are students and young people.
What should we do to promote the blood donation movement?
In order to increase the effectiveness of the blood donation movement, the support from leaders and managers of localities and organisations are important. Organisers of blood donations drives should visit offices, organisations and residential areas, calling on people to donate blood.
We should encourage people who are qualified to donate blood to give more blood. We strongly encourage blood donors to stay healthy so they can donate blood twice or three times per year.
Healthcare centres and hospitals which receive the donated blood should care for blood donors more through offering free testing/health check-ups, consultations before/after and during their blood donation, send them “happy birthday” messages or invitations to go to blood donation drives.
The blood donation drives should be organised regularly at offices, companies or schools instead of only on special occasions.
How has the COVID-19 pandemic affected the blood donation activities?
Due to COVID-19, the volume of donated blood received by the National Institute of Haematology and Blood Transfusion fell sharply. We received only 16,000 blood units in March while in the same period of previous years, we usually got 32,000-36,000 units. We received only 50-60 units per day as people went to the hospital or fixed blood donation stations to give blood.
Blood donation drives at offices, schools or residential areas were halted. The Youth Month and “All-people blood donation day” this year saw the lowest volume of blood donated.
As the volume of donated blood fell, we also face a shortage of platelets. Demand for platelets in treatment is huge while they are usually stored for up to five days prior to transfusion.
What do you do to tackle the blood shortage and ensure safety for blood donors during the COVID-19 pandemic?
We will continue opening fixed blood donation stations and we plan to borrow places to organise some blood donation drives. Of course, the blood donation must strictly follow disease prevention and control regulations, including no gathering.
During the COVID-19 pandemic, any donor arriving at a blood donation location would have their body temperature measured. Antibacterial cleaning products are offered at many spots. The donors are frequently asked to wear facemasks and clean their hands. They are also asked about their health condition so we can assess risks of the disease spreading. The donors are arranged to sit at a safe distance from each other. The places where the blood donation drives are organised would be disinfected and every surface would be cleaned after the drives. — VNS