JIS News

Director of the National Blood Transfusion Service (NBTS), Dr. Lundie Richards, has announced that the institution’s replacement donation system would be discontinued this year.
He told JIS News that the system, which allowed persons to donate blood for a family member or friend, was unsafe, and had outlived its usefulness. “We are saying that the replacement donation system has failed and it is unsafe and it is now time for us to move forward and join the rest of the world,” he informed.
“We can join other countries in the region – Cuba, Puerto Rico, St. Lucia, Barbados, Suriname – which all have a very good voluntary system of blood donation,” he added.
Dr. Richards said that these countries were able to attain a good voluntary system through proper marketing initiatives, among other communication tools. “This is definitely possible for Jamaica and is the way to go,” he remarked.
The replacement donation system was instituted 10 years ago to address a chronic shortage of blood in the island. Persons donating blood under the system would receive a receipt, which they would then take to the particular health facility to indicate that they have donated this unit of blood.
“This receipt would be sort of a passport to receiving a unit of blood. Of course, this does not guarantee that there is a unit of blood available because the donor may have been ill and the blood may not have been safe, although the person received a receipt upon donation,” the Director pointed out.
According to Dr. Richards, the discontinuation of the system would guarantee that volunteer donors, “who are the safe donors and who will also be truthful about their activities, will come forward. They are the ones who will be donating blood and keeping the blood supply safe.”
This, he said, would lessen the possibility of tainted blood reaching the population. “We will have safe blood for those who need it and you will not have the stress of having to beg or coerce someone to come in and donate a unit of blood because quite often, those coerced persons are the ones who are at the highest risk of causing problems to themselves and to blood facility,” he noted.
The phasing out of the process, he said further, would also guard against the possibility of receipts being illegally handed over. “We are looking at launching a receipt-less and totally voluntary process of donating blood,” he said.
Meanwhile, Dr. Richards told JIS News that the NBTS planned to re-launch the National Volunteer Blood Donor Programme, which was introduced in 2003. He noted that this programme “fell off” due to the fact that the Blood Bank still accommodated the replacement donations.
“Now we are taking it back and we are going to re-launch the programme. There are also some new policy positions that have been approved by the Ministry of Health and we will definitely launch them next month,” he disclosed.
In the meantime, Dr. Richards said that it was highly improbable for the sale of blood to take place at the Blood Bank, as there were systems in place to prevent this occurrence.
Elaborating, he said that when a donor visited the Blood Bank and donated a unit of blood, that person and the blood donated, were assigned unique numbers. The blood is then sent to the laboratory and processed using the unique numbers, which then become the serial number.
Once the blood is declared safe, the unit is then sent to the hospital or health facility that may need it. “There is absolutely no contact between patients and the laboratory,” Dr. Richards stated. He outlined that, “generally, the lab does not know who is going to be the recipient of the units of blood. They will only know where they have sent the units of blood . because the Blood Bank does not distribute blood directly to the patient but directly to the health facilities.”
It is also at the health facilities where the units of blood undergo a process of cross-matching, where a sample is taken from the person requiring blood and matched against the facility’s blood supplies. “So there is a whole chain of action that has to happen and therefore it is impossible for the Blood Bank itself to actually physically take a unit and send it for any one individual. It does not work that way,” he emphasized.