The Ministry of Health and Wellness is appealing to Jamaicans to donate blood, given the increased demand for blood products over recent months.
That demands has been driven, in part, by dengue infections.
“Platelets that are made from blood are needed by the body to help with clotting of the blood if there is bleeding. Platelets are usually affected in the patients who are diagnosed with a severe dengue infection,” explains Dr Alisha Tucker, Acting Director for the National Blood Transfusion Service (NBTS).
“If someone has a low platelet count because of a severe dengue infection, they will need platelets in order to help to prevent bleeding or to help stop bleeding if they are now having symptoms from the low platelet count,” she added.
The amount of platelets needed will depend on the size of the person.
“In an average day, in any one of the blood collection centres in Jamaica, an average of 5-10 donors will present and this is not enough to meet the increased demand,” Tucker said.
From the beginning of 2018 to present, a total of 6,525 suspected cases of dengue have been reported from across Jamaica – 1,057 for 2018 and 5,468 for 2019.
However the demand for blood does not end with dengue. In addition to trauma, the Bustamante Hospital for Children, for example, has great demands for blood and blood products for the children who need corrective heart, brain and spine surgeries, as well as children who have been diagnosed with blood diseases and cancers.
According to the Pan American Health Organisation (PAHO)/World Health Organisation (WHO), based on Jamaica’s population, the target number of blood units should be 50,000. The NBTS is working towards the collection of a total of 35,000 units by yearend.
“Our target is to reach 35,000 out of the expected amount by the end of 2019. We were at a total of 24,000 at the end of August,” Tucker noted.
It is possible to reach the target, but only if more Jamaicans give blood. To do so, Jamaicans can visit the blood bank at 21 Slipe Pen Road in Kingston or any of the nine other collection centres across the island.
Those centres include:
- National Chest Hospital (currently Saturdays only);
- Port Antonio Hospital;
- St Ann’s Bay Hospital;
- May Pen Hospital;
- Mandeville General Hospital;
- Cornwall Regional Hospital;
- Falmouth Hospital;
- Savanna-la-Mar Hospital; and
- the University Hospital Blood Bank.
There is also a Mobile Unit stationed at the Cornwall Regional Hospital to facilitate blood collection during the hospital rehabilitation process.