As part of its national blood conservation programme, Netcare has hosted over 100 blood donation drives in its hospitals countrywide so far this year. In the process they have successfully collected an impressive 4 364 life-saving pints for the South African National Blood Service (SANBS).
Commenting on the programme, Netcare’s national blood conservation co-ordinator, Rene Grobler says the programme, which was originally introduced at Netcare Milpark Hospital, at first focused mainly on blood conservation to ensure minimal wastage. However, the hospitals in the group have also included a blood drive challenge to encourage the donation of much-needed, life-saving blood.
“With our country’s seriously constrained blood stock reserve, even one unit of blood wasted is too much. However, considering that less than 1% of South Africans are active blood donors, it is just as critical to promote the importance of donating blood to ensure a sustainable blood stock reserve which ultimately saves many lives every day,” she says.
In addition to implementing strict guidelines whereby patients only receive blood when it is clinically indicated, Grobler explains that Netcare also makes use of ‘cell saver’ machines in its hospitals.
“Essentially these intraoperative cell salvage machines are used to suction, wash, and filter a patient’s blood so it can be infused back into the patient's body, for example in the case of surgery. This means that patients can receive their own blood instead of donor blood.
“And because the blood is re-circulated, the amount of blood that can be given back to the patient is unlimited. It also serves as a viable alternative for patients with religious objections to receiving blood transfusions,” she points out.
For Grobler, the aim of the regular blood drives at Netcare hospitals is to encourage staff members, patients, visitors and other members of the public to donate blood and do their bit for their fellow man, while at the same time providing them with a safe and convenient venue to do so.
“Generally speaking, shortages in donor blood occur when regular donors skip or delay a donation, for example when they go away during holiday periods, and not when there is an increase in demand due to motor vehicle accidents as is generally perceived.
“Through our inter-hospital blood donation challenge, we hope to encourage people to become frequent, regular blood donors,” Grobler says.
As nearly every blood donation is separated into red blood cells, plasma and platelets, one pint of blood can potentially save up to three lives, which means Netcare’s 2017 blood donation drive could eventually touch up to 13 092 lives.
“Eight out of every ten people will need donated blood at some time in their lives, however very few give the SANBS a second thought until they or a loved one are the ones in need of blood. The reality is that donated blood is so precious that no amount of money can buy it. However, thanks to the benevolence, time and effort of regular donors, countless lives are saved daily,” stresses Grobler.
Accident victims, people who are severely anaemic, surgical patients, and women who have lost blood while giving birth are, among others, beneficiaries of donated blood.
The SANBS requires a stock level of five days to ensure it can meet demand, and aims to collect 3 000 units of blood per day to ensure a safe and sufficient blood supply in the healthcare system. “A unit of blood only lasts 42 days after donation and, for this reason, it is important for blood donors to donate regularly,” adds Grobler.
Criteria for a first-time donor to donate blood:
- Must be between the ages of 16 and 65
- Must have a body mass of at least 50kg
- Must adhere to safe sexual practises
- Must be free of diseases such as HIV, syphilis and hepatitis B and C.
People should eat a small snack within four hours before donating blood, as this can help minimise the chance of feeling faint or light-headed afterwards. Donors are only allowed to donate around 480 ml of blood at a time.
“The SANBS tests every unit of blood in order to ensure it is safe for transfusion. And if you are donating blood for the first time, your plasma is quarantined until your next donation. By your next donation, if all tests come back negative, then the quarantined plasma from your first donation will be used.
“The same applies to people who have not donated blood for a while. Only once you have made three donations and the tests are negative for diseases that can be transmitted through blood, then all the components of your blood can be used. This is to ensure the safety of the person receiving the blood and again highlights the importance of people committing to donate regularly,” Grobler emphasises.
By law a person may only donate blood every 56 days to allow enough time for their red cells to regenerate. Grobler therefore believes the only way shortages can successfully be overcome is to continue raising awareness and get more people to donate more frequently.
“We urge everyone to get involved in this simple act of generosity, least of all because you never know when you might be the patient who requires an urgent blood transfusion,” she concludes.
To find out more about your closest blood donation centre go to https://sanbs.org.za/donor-centres/
Issued by: Martina Nicholson Associates (MNA) on behalf of Netcare Milpark Hospital
Contact: Martina Nicholson, Graeme Swinney, Meggan Saville or Alison Sharp
Telephone: (011) 469 3016
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