Islamabad — The Pakistan Institute of Medical Sciences (PIMS) blood bank has collected approximately 28,000 blood bags in 2018 while more than 137,000 people have donated blood at the PIMS Blood Bank since 2014.
But most of these donations were not voluntary.
Dr. Hassan Abbas Zaheer, National Coordinator of the Safe Blood Transfusion Program (SBTP), said around 88% of the blood donated is from people who give blood as a “replacement” so their relatives could get the appropriate type of blood from the bank in return. Only 12% are voluntary donors.
“Voluntary blood donations should be 100%,” Dr. Zaheer said. “It is not ethical to ask someone in distress for blood exchange.”
He said people who are in medical emergencies should not be worried about donating or finding other donors.
“They should be immediately given what they require,” Dr. Zaheer said.
He said even though the blood donor types are not preferably ideal, they do not have blood shortages.
Dr. Zaheer said there are 21 blood banks In Islamabad that are officially licensed by the government to collect blood and last year alone 69,000 blood bags were collected in these blood banks.
Bilal Ahmed Tareen, the blood bank manager at PIMS, said when someone comes with a request seeking blood, they provide them with the blood. But in exchange they ask them to donate blood to the bank, he said.
“The amount of bags we ask (for) varies,” Mr. Tareen said. “Usually we asks for two donations for one blood bag but in emergency cases, we provide it without condition.”
Mudassir Hassan, the father of a patient admitted at PIMS, told Media for Transparency that his daughter is facing a urinary tract issue. She requires a blood transfusion after surgery, Mr. Hassan said. He said that she had a blood transfusion once before and they have to wait more than an hour to get the blood bottles after requesting.
Mr. Tareen said the blood bank takes some time after the request since they have to screen the blood samples and see if it reacts with the recipient’s blood. They also screen the donated blood to check for Hepatitis B, Hepatitis C, HIV, malaria, and syphilis, he said.
According to data shared by the blood bank, B+ blood group was the most donated blood group. In the past five years, 31% of the 85,086 blood bags collected at the blood bank were B+ while the share of AB- blood type bags was only 0.8% of the total.
“We have never had a death at PIMS due to the unavailability of blood,” Mr. Tareen said. “The circle (of supply and demand) is completed by Allah.”
The PIMS blood bank data shows that more than 216,000 products have been requested since 2014 and over 126,000 blood bags have been issued.
The gap between the number of requests and issued bags, Mr. Tareen said, is because some people do not collect the blood after requesting it.
“This majorly happens in childbirth cases,” he said. “The gynecologists ask relatives to donate and request blood just in case it is needed, but it is needed in very few cases.”
Mr. Tareen said there are also unfortunate cases where the blood is not collected because the patient died.
Majority of the blood is given to the thalassemia centre at PIMS, he said. Thalassemia is an inherited blood disorder in which patients have low haemoglobin, the oxygen carrying protein in blood, and require blood transfusions.
“On a daily basis, 40 bottles are dispatched to thalassemia patients,” Mr. Tareen said.
Dr. Zaheer said model blood banks are being built all over Pakistan at the moment. These will be closely regulated and equipped with state of the art Nucleic Acid Amplification Testing to screen for defects, he said.
He also said that SBTP is working closely with social media platforms to increase awareness about blood donations in Pakistan.
“Facebook has developed a Pakistan-specific hub,” Dr. Zaheer said. “It aims to guide and make people aware about blood donations.”