Muscat: Authorities tasked with maintaining a minimum supply of blood have issued a clarion call urging donors to come forward and donate blood, since stocks deplete rapidly around this time of the year.
In order to ensure availability of minimum stocks, the Central Blood Bank must have at least 200 units of blood on any day. Invariably, around this time, with summer season on and the community marking the holy month of Ramadan, the bank runs short of blood. One reason is that donors are hard to come by as many people fast during the month and most young people travel in this season.
Naturally, it is hard to find donors. "During summer and the month of Ramadan, we don't receive many donors, simply because they are fasting," said Dr Sabria Al Hashami, director of Department of Blood Services. "This is one of the major contributing factors to the shortage of blood units during Ramadan."
The need for the bank to have sufficient stock of blood becomes all the more imperative because Oman's roads are regarded as one of the most dangerous in GCC, not because of their condition, but because of reckless driving habits. In any accident, injured often need large amount of blood. According to the WHO, Oman was ranked fifth in the world in 2010 when it came to accidents. According to the National Centre for Statistics and Information, road accidents in Oman came down by 20.5 per cent in 2013, compared to 2012. A total of 905 people were killed and 9,965 were injured in 7,201 road accidents in 2013.
This year, by the end of May, 2,496 accidents have already occurred, including some fatal ones. Oman ranks number three in the Eastern Mediterranean region in road accident fatality rate, which translates to 35 deaths per 100,000 people, according to Global Road Safety Report 2013.
Across the country, driving fast and recklessly to reach home in time for iftar has become a norm, and naturally that has been resulting in some accidents. "Road accident victims are the largest consumers of blood products, followed by patients of obstetrical bleeding (women after giving birth), followed by surgical cases, patients with blood disorders and requiring blood transfusion, and finally, the cancer patients," Dr Sabria said.
Donors can donate blood while fasting
"Depending on the injury, one person can easily consume all the hospital's blood bank inventory. If they are bleeding or have sustained major injuries, a patient can easily consume 40 units. The hospital then assesses whether the patient needs more blood early in the process, and that is when they call us," Dr Sabria added.
It is not against the religion or morals of Ramadan and donors are allowed to donate blood while fasting. It will not break the fast, but the person will feel weak and drowsy. Most donors are Omani locals, and during Ramadan, they donate after the Taraweeh prayers.
Blood donation campaigns are being organised mainly to persuade expatriates in some companies during the holy month.
"We are trying our best to organise more campaigns and blood drives targeting the non-Muslims in some of the companies. And even in those companies, they are a bit restricted because of their work hours. Due to such reasons, sometimes we do not receive enough donors," Dr Al Hashami said.
During Ramadan, the Central Blood Bank heavily depends on expatriates for blood donations.
When asked about the MoH's statement that they are aiming to achieve 95 per cent donation in 2015, Dr Sabria stated that they have reached 85 per cent of the total donations from voluntary donors, and are aiming for 95 per cent where it would be no more necessary to ask donors to contribute, but it will be possible to simply rely on them to come forward. "We have a database of regular donors, but we need to expand that database and have new donors, especially young donors," said Al Hashami.
"The need for blood is increasing because the services are expanding. The types of patients who are being treated in hospitals are different from the situation in the last few years. We are treating more complex cases and sometimes rare conditions require a lot of blood. So the need to expand our collection will always be there."
She added that the specification of the blood products are changing internationally and some samples are not as acceptable as was the case a few years ago. They need to do additional testing and processing to produce a high purity product.
The high demand for O+ and A+ blood type in hospitals offers a challenge to maintain a good supply of blood as these are consumed at a rapid pace. The Central Blood Bank is struggling to stock the rarest blood groups, which are the recess negative units: O-, A-, B- and AB-.
The Central Blood Bank welcomes voluntary donors by sending out mobile facilities to key locations such as mosques and shopping malls to make it easier for people to donate blood, as well as by sending text messages to registered donors.
Activities, such as a 2km marathon that was held in Sur last year, will help educate potential donors about the benefits of blood donation.
An annual event, the World Blood Donation Day, which is held on 14th of June every year, is held to show gratitude towards donors as well as attract new ones. Workshops will be organised in the near future to educate donors about the importance of donating and nurturing a culture of giving.
For those who want to donate in the final weeks of Ramadan, the Central Blood Bank is sending out mobile units for donations at the following locations:
Today (July 15) - Said Bin Taimoor Mosque, Al Khuwair.
Tomorrow (July 16) - Seeb Souq.
July 26- Mutrah Corniche.
All mobile units will be available from 8pm – 12am.
To get in touch: Tariq@timesofoman.com