KATHMANDU, Feb 11: Kumar Neupane, 35, of Dhusheni, Rasuwa on last Tuesday reached the Central Blood Transfusion Service (CBTS) looking for A positive blood type. Doctors at the Tribhuvan University Teaching Hospital (TUTH), where his wife is admitted, had asked him to arrange three pints fresh blood of the type before 4 pm so they could operate on her.
But the staffers at CTBS, known as blood bank, asked him to find donors himself and expressed helplessness that there was no single donation program on the day.
"I don´t know anyone in the capital, who can donate blood for my wife," he complained. Neupane could not arrange the blood and the scheduled surgery of his wife had to be postponed.
Like Neupane, hundreds of patients from far flung areas, who have difficulty in finding donors simply because they have no acquaintance in the capital, have been suffering due to the permanent shortage of blood.
Patients have to wait months for their turn to have surgery at big hospitals. It is frustrating if the scheduled surgeries are delayed or postponed due to the unavailability of required blood type.
Earlier, the bank mainly reported shortage of blood of negative groups, but in recent years it has struggled to maintain the supply of all blood groups.
With the mushrooming of hospitals and nursing homes, the demand for bloods has shot up drastically.
"The demand is so high that it is hard for us to organize enough blood donation programs to meet it," said Sobha Bista, public relation officer at the bank. She informed that every day more than 200 people approach the bank for blood but not all of them are lucky. Everyday demand is 350 to 400 pints, but the collection is only 200 to 300 pints. "People have to wait or arrange donors themselves," said Bista.
"We do not want to disappoint anybody but we are helpless,” said Bista, adding, "People should know that blood can neither be manufactured or imported. It can only be made available if healthy people donate."
The bank said that it is the responsibility of the healthy people to donate blood on order to save lives. The bank said that it has to arrange 15 to 20 pints of blood for a single case of open heart surgery. Likewise, leukemia patients need seven pints of blood daily. Dialysis patients also need at least two pints.
The bank said due to marriage season and long winter vacation at colleges, the number of donation programs has declined. Since colleges are the main source of blood, the bank faces similar crisis even during the festive seasons.
"Blood collection declines during festive seasons, but the number of people suffering from different ailments do not," said Bista.
Another reason that contributes to the shortage of blood is that the relatives of patients do not feel the urgency to return the blood they don´t need, said the bank. They hold the blood until their patient gets discharged. Some do not care to return the blood even after their patient is discharged. Yet, some commit a blunder by carrying the blood they want to return in a plastic bag, as they do not realize that a blood becomes useless if it is not carried in an icebox. Even the doctors try to play safe by demanding more blood than is required.
Premsagar Karmacharya, chairman of Nepal Blood Donors Association (NBDA), said that the ongoing blood scarcity is a result of the lack of prudence on the part of bank authority. "They should have vision and planning to boost the collection," said Karmacharya.
He said that the bank should not wait for other organizations to make a call. “It should either approach people or organize blood donation programs on its own," he added.
Karmacharya, who has donated 132 times, appealed the people to donate blood. He also urged the blood bank authority to launch awareness programs to boost blood donation. He said that the situation could get out of hand if the problem is not dealt with on time.
Meanwhile, the bank said it is preparing to open more blood collection centers in the capital. The bank has already started blood collection centers at Bhugol Park, Mahabaudha, Bhotahity, Chabahil and Jamal.
Premsagar Karmacharya, Chairman, Nepal Blood Donors Association (NBDA)
How do you asses the ongoing blood crisis?
I get frequent calls from the relatives of patients. On some days, I do not get enough sleep as calls keep coming even in the night. The worried relatives of patients call me after they fail to get any help from the blood bank. People from the far flung areas can hardly arrange donors when doctors ask them to manage blood at short notice. I have been assisting such people for long. When they approach me, I personally call donors and request them to give blood. There have been instances when patients have died after we could not arrange blood in time. But the crisis has been deepening in recent years. I attribute the present crisis as the ´management failure´ on the part of blood bank.
What should the blood bank do to deal with the situation?
The bank should not wait for other organizations to hold blood donation programs. They should organize such programs themselves. They should approach the public and encourage them to donate blood through awareness campaigns. They should be able to create an environment for blood donation.
The bank which is entrusted with ensuring blood supply must operate with some vision to manage the crisis. The trend of recruiting employees on the basis of nepotism and favoritism should be stopped because only devoted and qualified employees can bring about positive changes. Most of the senior employees of the bank are also engaged in several other projects. Their role at the bank is not on their priorities.
What do you have to say to people who hesitate to donate due to stigma?
I have donated 132 times and will continue to do so until my health allows. It feels good after you have donated blood as you effort might save somebody´s life. Studies have shown that donating blood regularly helps fight addiction and reduce the chances of suffering from health problems like high blood pressure and increase in cholesterol level.