Wednesday, April 21, 2021

Banking on new blood to keep going

The National Blood Centre has seen a 14% drop in blood donations since the Covid-19 pandemic hit last year.

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A crucial part of the country’s healthcare system has been running short of supplies since the movement control order (MCO) was first implemented in March last year to curb the spread of Covid-19.

In 2019, the National Blood Centre was able to collect 199,721 bags of blood – just short of 200,000. Last year, though, that number dropped about 14% to 171,106 as movement restrictions and concerns over the virus which has so far claimed nearly 1,200 lives in the country kept many would-be donors at home.

Dr Tun Maizura Mohd Fathullah, the centre’s first deputy director, said there had been an increase in blood donations since the conditional movement control order or CMCO was implemented following a drop in number of infections.

But she said community involvement in the donation of blood to meet the needs of patients throughout the country remains low.

“The practice of donating blood should be done consistently, every three or four months at least twice a year while ensuring consistent blood supply and safety,” she told MalaysiaNow.

About 2,000 bags of blood are needed every day to help some 1,000 patients in hospitals across the country.

Community involvement in the donation of blood to meet the needs of patients throughout the country remains low.

Muhd Azim Ashaal, Leng, and Abdul Qayyum Manan Mustafa have been actively donating blood for several years now.

They told MalaysiaNow that their goal is to help the National Blood Centre maintain a sufficient supply of blood to continue helping patients in need.

“I want to donate because I am worried that a low supply could cause difficulties for patients,” Leng, 33, said.

Civil servant Qayyum, who has been an active blood donor for five year, said he would like to donate plasma as well.

“When I was told by the centre that we can also donate plasma, I thought it was time to get involved in that programme,” he said.

Azim meanwhile sees blood donation as a charitable act. He said donating blood had also helped him switch to a healthy lifestyle and to quit smoking.

“To donate blood, I need to take care of my health and eat iron-rich foods to maintain the quality of blood,” he said.

A staff member at the inventory section of the National Blood Centre takes bags of donated blood to be given to hospitals in need.

Maizura said many are aware of the importance of donating blood. Part of the problem is that there are still those who believe that donating blood will lead to sudden weight gain.

This mindset is hard to change, even though the act of donating blood is believed to have existed since 1955 among British Red Cross volunteers, she said.

She cited studies which show that donating blood can burn up to 650 calories depending on the amount of blood given.

“Regular blood donation can also help maintain cardiovascular health and reduce blood clots and the accumulation of excess iron in the heart which is a risk factor for heart attacks,” she said.

Other health benefits include a boost in the production of red blood cells, while donors are likely to maintain their fitness and increase productivity.

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