M. Dinesh Varma

Demand set to go up, say experts

Preference for components over whole blood has cut wastageExperts want donor base to be expanded, broadbasedExperts recommend streamlining of collection calendar

CHENNAI: Though a strong donor tradition is sustaining the city's blood bank network, transfusion medicine experts are calling for stock mobilisation strategies that ensure uniform availability of blood throughout the year.

Motivation campaigns are helping build a donor base comprising predominantly college youth, and the city's blood banks are now shifting focus to streamlining collection drives.

Though there is a demand-supply gap in the country with around 8 million units collected against an annual requirement of 8.5 million units, the situation is slightly different in Chennai, say experts. In the State-run blood banks or the over 30 private institutions, the concern is more about the sporadic supply than a chronic deficit, especially with the shift to usage of blood components rather than whole blood.

The preference for components over whole blood has cut down wastage, expanded shelf life (frozen plasma can be preserved for around a year as opposed to the lifespan of around 35 days for a unit of whole blood), and also increased the number of beneficiaries per unit of blood.

``Though no surgery is postponed these days for want of a donor, we should think in terms of spacing blood donation camps in a manner where we can ensure uniform availability of blood throughout the year,'' said N. Rajakumar, transfusion unit, Stanley Medical College.

Stanley and General Hospital are the only two Government institutions to have component separation facility. These hospitals network with other hospitals to meet requirements for donor blood, a process made simpler with online monitoring of stocks.

Undeniably, it is the city's youth especially college students who are responsible for blood donation. This becomes obvious as collection goes into a lull during the March-June period, which coincides with examinations, summer vacation and admissions.

``However, blood banks realise that alongside camps targeted at youth, volunteers have to be found from society to meet long-term requirements,'' said K. M. Radhakrishnan, special officer, department of transfusion medicine, Tamil Nadu Dr. MGR Medical University.

Blood banks also maintain registries of volunteers who can be contacted in an emergency.

Dr. Radhakrishnan advocates streamlining collection programmes to make blood uniformly available throughout the year. Often, a spate of blood donation camps by NGOs and youth fronts results in excess stocks at the blood bank. During this phase, storage is far in excess of requirements.

Transfusion experts recommend that blood banks formulate a calendar of events across the year to bring in a uniform supply of donor blood in tune with actual needs, he added. This will ensure availability of blood throughout the year.

The demand for blood is likely to go up, especially with the boom in medical tourism. Apollo Hospitals, for instance, gets approximately 12,000 donors every year, and is still looking to increase donor participation.