Sharing that there has been “significant improvement” in blood donations after the initial scare following rising coronavirus cases in India, National Blood Transfusion Council director Dr Sunil Gupta, Addl DGHS, NACO said that at present, “blood collection is almost close to pre-COVID times”.
“The scare that was initially present in the minds of the staff at the blood center was removed through proper sanitisation measures, social distancing, and methodical way of blood collection via prior appointments. Donors initially faced movement restrictions, for which certificates were issued for them. We also had more than 30 mobile blood collection vans to reach out to communities and societies. By end of July, there was a significant improvement in blood collection from the bleak scenario in March end and April. Now our collection is almost close to that of pre-COVID times,” he said at the recently-concluded The Associated Chambers of Commerce and Industry of India (ASSOCHAM’s) 12th edition of Illness to Wellness series.
The virtual event saw an expert panel of Thalassemia specialists hold a dialogue on problems faced by Thalassemia patients and blood centers during COVID-19, inclusion of Thalassemia in the Disabilities Act, 2016, and blood donation awareness in India.
Commenting on the efforts made by authorities to encourage blood donations during the lockdown, he emphasised the need to change mindsets through awareness about voluntary donation of blood. “As per NACO, currently, 70 per cent of blood donations are voluntary. Some states such as Gujarat, Maharashtra, Kerala and Tamil Nadu are particularly very active in voluntary blood donations. At the same time, some states are lagging and there is a huge gap. We are trying to analyse why this gap exists in the same country and have realised that it has to do with the prevailing culture of the state and the mindset of the population. There is a need to change mindsets,” he said.
Amid the pandemic, there were reports suggesting a shortage of blood in hospitals and for critical surgeries. Dr Amita Mahajan, senior consultant, pediatric hematology and oncology, Indraprastha Apollo Hospitals, Delhi elaborated on overcoming hindrances faced by hospitals and blood centres during COVID lockdown. “The pandemic has been both a challenge and a unique opportunity to look for productive pathways. During the pandemic, patients were scared to come to the hospital and donors were also scared of contracting COVID from hospitals. It was also not possible to hold blood donation camps as maintaining social distance would become difficult. To resolve these, at the hospital, we made separate entries and exits for voluntary donors. We issued special movement passes to donors and reached out to previous donors and assured them of safety during donation,” she described.
Anil Rajput, Chairman, ASSOCHAM CSR Council further urged people to voluntarily donate blood as it helps patients with blood disorders, including thalassemics. “In our country, two million people suffer from thalassemia and many other disabilities. Blood donation and transfusion are crucial to the essential services especially for these patients,” he mentioned.