Pandemic leaves Delhi blood banks parched, hospitals rely on in-house donations

The Indian Red Cross Society, a voluntary organisation with a network of blood banks across the country, has been able to hold 57 camps in Delhi from April 14 till date.

The Covid-19 pandemic has left blood banks in the capital running dry, with the number of voluntary donations falling significantly given the fear of transmission. Plus expanding containment zones in the city have left little space for the blood banks to hold camps. There are over 70 blood banks in the capital, which collects 95% of the blood through regular donation drives by organising camps at schools, colleges and private institutions.

The Indian Red Cross Society (IRCS), a voluntary organisation with a network of blood banks across the country, has been able to hold 57 camps in Delhi from April 14 till date. The organisation, which used to hold 25 blood donation camps a month, was able to arrange just 2,500 units of blood during these three months.

“The containment zones in Delhi have increased over the last few months due to which the blood donation drives cannot be carried out in those areas. Many volunteers are not able to donate as they reside in these areas. At present, we are able to meet 50% of the demand,” said IRCS director Vanashree Singh. Every year, the society organises a mega blood donation camp on April 24 in which 1,200-1,500 units of blood is collected. This year, the event was canceled.

Corporate houses, schools and colleges, which are shut nowadays, are major sources of blood collections for several NGOs. “We are now coordinating with RWAs for holding blood donation camps in their areas,” said Singh.

To meet the supply, those visiting the hospitals are being motivated to donate blood. The in-house donations at hospitals, though, are relatively more stable.

“The voluntary donations have dropped significantly during the lockdown while the in-house donations have gone up. The situation was grim when the lockdown started as there was a complete ban on movement. But we are somehow motivating the donors to come forward and donate. In the last three months, we have organised 25-30 camps in areas like Najafgarh, Vikaspuri and Paschim Vihar. We are making extra efforts and increasing in-house donations in hospitals. Doctors are regularly motivating attendants to donate,” said Dr Mausami Swami, director of Delhi’s blood transfusion council.

Blood cancer patients, thalassemia patients, pregnant women, road accident victims and people needing elective surgeries suffer the most due to the lack of blood donations.

“Even patients and their families have exhausted all possible donors. The number of panic calls from families has increased. If someone requires two units of blood, then we are only able to provide him one unit. We have requested the Delhi government to step in and motivate people to come forward and donate blood. The government can also start organising camps by following the social distancing rules,” said Shobha Tuli, secretary of NGO Thalassemics India.

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