Johannesburg – The SA National Blood Service is urgently calling for eligible donors after experiencing critically low blood stocks due to the coronavirus pandemic.
The service particularly needs young new blood donors and Group O and B donors to boost its stocks.
SANBS spokesperson Khensani Mahlangu told The Star yesterday that during the lockdown period SANBS had a mass cancellation of blood drives, which affected the non-profit organisation severely.
“We did pick up in the following weeks and we are able to stay stable, but I think that was owing largely to the fact that hospitals were not doing elective surgeries and people were staying at home. We didn’t have to dispatch blood in the amounts that it has gone up since level 1 started,” she said.
Mahlangu said that since hospitals had resumed performing elective surgeries, SANBS has been struggling to bring people in to donate.
The spokesperson added that the service was also struggling to secure venues for mobile blood drives.
“We have noticed that most people are still working from home and a large number of entities that hosted us were corporates, universities and high schools.
“They are not open to having us back, and in any case where we are able to get back, we are struggling with numbers,” she said.
Mahlangu added that during a mobile blood drive before the pandemic, SANBS would usually collect about 100 units of blood a day, but was now down to 20 units.
The non-profit uses days to determine its current blood stock levels, with five days indicating that there is enough blood stock to aid everyone who needs it.
“At the moment we are sitting at 3.6 days, which is cutting it close, and that leaves a large amount of people at risk each day each day we aim to collect roughly no less than 3000 units of blood. It’s quite a struggle to reach that at the moment,” Mahlangu said.
According to SANBS, about 3000 lives are at risk as a result of the shortages.
Mahlangu said SANBS was particularly calling for eligible donors who are part of the O and B blood group and young people between the ages 16 and 35.
“Our loyal donors are ageing slowly but surely and this year we haven’t been able to recruit people to bring in the younger donors, which would then feed into the lifetime pool. By the time they are about 65 or 75, they will stop donating blood,” Mahlangu said.
She said SANBS was aiming to start its donor base young, because people committed more deeply if they started donating from a young age.
“It’s important to state that we don’t turn anyone away. We really do need all blood groups and we are calling for O blood groups especially because they are the universal donor.”