The need for blood donations in Tobago remains critical, says Medical Chief of Staff Dr Victor Wheeler.
Addressing reporters on Tuesday during the Division of Health, Wellness and Family Development’s media conference, Wheeler said the island requires approximately 3,000 units of blood annually. He said the island does not have a large number of regular blood donors.
He said every year in the lead-up to Christmas the Tobago Regional Health Authority (TRHA) usually undertakes a blood sensitisation drive as it expects an increase in demand during that period.
Wheeler told Newsday, "Generally, with the increased (alcohol) drinking there are a lot more accidents, and with heavier partying there is a higher rate of accidents."
Wheeler added, “In the past few months we have noticed a continued shortage of blood resulting from reduction in persons coming to give blood. In TT, we do have a chronic blood shortage where we don’t have sufficient blood throughout the year, but recently we did experience an acute shortage.”
Blood donations in Tobago have dropped by almost 75 per cent in 2020.
"The blood bank gets only two to three pints per day when usually it would get from ten to 12 pints per day."
To address the problem, he said, the division began a public awareness campaign, highlighting the importance of donating blood, which runs until December 31.
He said 3,000 units should be donated annually in Tobago, but the island receives fewer than 1,000. With a population of 60,000, Tobago should receive donations of about 3,000 units a year, but figures for the past few years have varied from 800-1,000 a year.
He said Tobago needs to develop a culture of giving blood.
Currently, the practice for donating blood is: “If you have someone who needs to have surgery, they would ask one or two persons to donate blood to them, or if you were in hospital for an emergency procedure and you have blood, usually we would ask you to get someone to give blood to replace that blood.”
He said the health division is trying to encourage people to become voluntary, regular blood donors.
“Men can give a unit of blood safely four times a year, women can donate a unit of blood safely three times a year. We are hoping to have a cadre of persons who will become voluntary registered blood donors so that the laboratory has a continuous steady supply.”
He pointed out that one benefit is that if a voluntary donor needs surgery, elective or not, blood would be made available for them.
“If you come into hospital, you need an emergency transfusion that would be available. We’re trying to get away from persons having to get people to give blood, because there is a need for blood.
“The calculation that we’ve had if we have about 300-400 men and 200-300 women giving blood every year regularly, that should satisfy our demand...We want persons to become voluntary regular blood donors and see blood donation as part of your civic duty," he said.
Wheeler said donors have nothing to fear as the process is very safe and all covid19 health protocols are observed.
People interested in donating blood can call the Blood Bank at the Scarborough General Hospital at 660-4744 ext 3101 between Monday and Saturday to make an appointment.