Adults ‘re­luc­tant to do­nate’ blood

Lesotho Times - - News -

Since its es­tab­lish­ment in June 1984, the Le­sotho Blood Trans­fu­sion Ser­vice (LBTS) con­tin­ues to play a cru­cial role in the coun­try’s health­care de­liv­ery sys­tem. A depart­ment in the Min­istry of Health, the LBTS’S man­date is to pro­vide safe blood to all hospi­tals in Le­sotho col­lected from vol­un­tary non­re­mu­ner­ated donors. To en­sure its safety, the blood is first screened for HIV, Hep­ati­tis B and syphilis, be­fore it is passed to hospi­tals.

LBTS Man­ager, Ms Male­qhoa Ny­opa, speaks with Le­sotho Times (LT) reporter Lim­pho Sello about the depart­ment.

LT: Could you please tell us the back­ground of the Le­sotho Blood Trans­fu­sion Ser­vice?

Ny­opa: Be­fore the es­tab­lish­ment of the LBTS in 1984, district hospi­tals used to col­lect blood from vol­un­tary donors but the Min­istry of Health soon re­alised that there were many pro­cesses in­volved for the safety of the blood. Th­ese pro­cesses in­volved screen­ing for var­i­ous dis­eases. You will also re­alise that soon af­ter the es­tab­lish­ment of the LBTS, Le­sotho recorded its first case of HIV in 1986 so a year later, in 1987, hospi­tals stopped col­lect­ing blood and all the work was now be­ing done by the LBTS and the blood bank was only in Maseru. now we also have them in Leribe and Mo­hale’s Hoek.

LT: The ad­vent of HIV should have made the LBTS’ job that much harder….

Ny­opa: Ab­so­lutely. Be­fore the spread of HIV and AIDS, the LBTS used to col­lect blood ev­ery­where and the coun­try never ex­pe­ri­enced any blood short­age. We would go to schools, pris­ons, fac­to­ries and the streets. But in 1996 af­ter HIV in­fec­tions started to in­crease, we had to come up with new strate­gies of get­ting safe blood. i must men­tion that the high HIV preva­lence led to a drop in blood do­na­tions and an in­crease in de­mand from anaemic pa­tients es­pe­cially those with AIDS.

LT: You have touched on some of the chal­lenges you face as LBTS. But could you also share with us the no­table achieve­ments you have scored as a depart­ment?

Ny­opa: We have achieved a lot de­spite the many chal­lenges we face. For in­stance, in 2010, we re­ceived as­sis­tance from the Mil­len­nium chal­lenge Ac­count (MCA) in the form of two ve­hi­cles be­cause we did not have cars at the time. And with the new cars branded LBTS, we could now eas­ily move from one place to the other and our blood col­lec­tions in­creased.

The col­lec­tions had dropped be­tween 1996 and 2009 and we would only col­lect 3000 blood units each year. But af­ter the do­na­tion of the ve­hi­cle, by the end of 2010, we had col­lected 3996 units. Again with the help of PEP­FAR (United States Pres­i­dent’s emer­gency Plan for AIDS Re­lief) we in­creased the num­ber of our staff, and got three more ve­hi­cles which helped reach out to com­mu­ni­ties as we sought more blood do­na­tions. in ad­di­tion, we opened of­fices in Leribe and Mo­hale’s Hoek, and this en­hanced our op­er­a­tions even fur­ther.

How­ever, our big­gest chal­lenge is the com­mu­nity, es­pe­cially adults who are very re­luc­tant to do­nate blood with most of them claim­ing that they are ill. i must tell you that 60 per­cent of our blood is from stu­dents, while the adults turn their backs on us. We try to sen­si­tize them on the im­por­tance of blood trans­fu­sion but they choose not to heed our call.

But de­spite this neg­a­tiv­ity, we still try to make them aware of the im­por­tance of their par­tic­i­pa­tion through ra­dios and tele­vi­sion. We also give out such in­for­ma­tion in writ­ten form but they de­cide not to read be­cause the next day, you would find the doc­u­ments lit­tered all over and you start won­der­ing if they had both­ered to read just two lines.

The bot­tom line is peo­ple still lack un­der­stand­ing about blood do­na­tion. They only value it when they are in trou­ble or one of their loved ones is in des­per­ate need of blood, but we need not wait for such times.

LT: Why is the LBTS al­most al­ways short of blood dur­ing hol­i­days? Why can’t you pre­pare for the high de­mand which al­ways comes with such pe­ri­ods?

Ny­opa: Last year, we col­lected 8000 units but the coun­try needs 10 000 blood units an­nu­ally. At the mo­ment i can’t say off-hand ex­actly how much we have in the blood bank. But dur­ing hol­i­days, there is high de­mand for blood be­cause of the many ac­ci­dents and as­saults that take place dur­ing this pe­riod. in ad­di­tion, we also have pa­tients such as moth­ers in de­liv­ery and those with anaemia (anaemia is a de­crease in the amount of red blood cells or haemoglobin in the blood), so be­cause of the prob­lems re­gard­ing donors and the high de­mand for blood i have men­tioned, we will most likely face se­ri­ous chal­lenges at such times.

LT: If peo­ple are re­luc­tant to give out their blood, have you ever con­sid­ered of­fer­ing in­cen­tives for them to do­nate?

Ny­opa: The prob­lem of ex­chang­ing blood with money can be a big one be­cause even sick peo­ple would want to trade their blood as well as body parts. We would be in trou­ble of get­ting in­fected blood and we don’t want that since we have to col­lect safe blood. Again, by buy­ing the blood, we would in­cur ad­di­tional ex­penses which would then re­quire us to sell the pre­cious liq­uid.

And the per­son who is go­ing to suf­fer the most is the pa­tient in des­per­ate need of the blood. The other thing is that blood is price­less, blood is life and for one to give it, you must do so through your good heart with­out ex­pect­ing any­thing in re­turn. You give it to as­sist some­one in need and not for fi­nan­cial gain.

LT: Who qual­i­fies to be a donor?

Ny­opa: First and fore­most, one must be healthy to qual­ify as a blood donor. One must also be be­tween the ages of 16 and 60 years with a weight of 50 kilo­grammes and above.

LT: What is your mes­sage to the pub­lic?

Ny­opa: We are in the fes­tive sea­son and we know the pub­lic is go­ing to en­gage in all sorts of ac­tiv­ity that will end up putting them in dan­ger. How­ever, i would want to ap­peal to them to look af­ter them­selves by avoid­ing drink­ing al­co­holic bev­er­ages and driv­ing and be­ing in un­nec­es­sary con­flicts which might re­sult in se­ri­ous in­juries. To those who would want to do­nate blood, i also urge them to come for­ward be­cause it’s all our re­spon­si­bil­ity to save lives.

LBTS Man­ager Ms Male­qhoa Ny­opa.

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