Muscat: After Oman’s Ministry of Health recorded a drop of nearly 40 per cent in blood donors during Ramadan, plans are underway to increase the number of donation campaigns in the holy month to cover the shortfall.
In a statement, the ministry said: “During the holy month of Ramadan, people fasting cannot donate blood, and many may be busy in the evenings. For these reasons, blood banks usually face a decline in the number of donors during the holy month. The number of donors goes down by up to 40 per cent.”
The ministry added: “The Department of Blood Bank Services (DBBS) will increase the number of donation campaigns to meet the daily need for blood and its components. Health institutions will need a large number of blood donors daily.”
In the evenings, blood banks will be open from 7.30pm to 11.00pm for the duration of the holy month, in addition to the morning from 8am to 1pm. The allotted time for donating platelets will be from 7.30pm to 10pm.
The DBBS said the blood donation campaigns would run from May 20 to June 10 from 8pm to 11.30pm in mosques, shopping centres and markets in Mabela, Al Khuwair, Bausher, Al Amerat, Azaiba, Al Khoud, Mawaleh, Muttrah and Ruwi.
Dr. Mohsin Al Sharyani, Head of Donors Affairs in the Ministry of Health, said: “Anyone who is in good health and feeling well, above the age of 18 and fulfils the donor selection criteria, and does not weigh less than 50kg, is eligible to donate blood.”
Donors must bring their resident or identity card with them and the process will take 30 minutes with 450ml of blood drawn from each donor.
“However, there are conditions that can lead to temporary or permanent deferral if we think the donor health or blood safety is at risk,” he said.
“The list is detailed and we emphasise that the conditions listed are for temporary deferral only and the eligibility of any prospective donor is to be assessed by the physician,” he added.
Dr Sathish N Veluswamy, a laparoscopic surgeon at Burjeel Hospital, shed some light on the blood donation eligibility process doctors followed. “Donors usually undergo a general check-up to check the blood pressure count and illnesses in the past, such as malaria and hepatitis B,” he told Times of Oman. “Those who have any blood-borne diseases and sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) cannot donate blood.”
He added: “If a donor has had malaria, especially if he/she has been in an endemic area, he/she will be screened. No fasting is required before donating blood.”
Al Sharyani said: “With the expansion in the introduction of healthcare services in the Sultanate, the demand for blood and blood components is ever-increasing, but the DBBS is capable enough to meet the needs.”
“There has never been any shortage of blood but, definitely, the DBBS has experienced shortfall, which is an obstacle facing all the blood banks in the world. This shortfall generally occurs after holiday seasons and in the summer months,” he added. “The Donor Affairs section at DBBS is extremely efficient and competent in overcoming such shortfalls by utilising tools that have proven to be effective and productive in maintaining adequate blood inventory. The selfless generosity of our safe blood donors is an important contributing factor towards the sustainable supply of safe blood and blood components.”
Official government channels aside, a group of well-meaning Omanis and expats have set up a WhatsApp group titled ‘We Help Blood Donation’, to organise blood for hospitals or patients who need it during emergencies. “We have more than 1,000 members in our group, but during Ramadan, we do experience a shortage of blood donors,” said a member of the organisation. “One reason can be the change in the blood bank timings during the month of Ramadan, which the donors may not know. Also, after fasting, one can donate blood, but I think donors are not aware of that.”