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  • The Government remains committed to increasing the number of volunteers donating blood.
  • This is being pursued through safeguarding the quality and standard of procedures for blood collection.
  • There are also improved transfusion guidelines for clinical use of blood.

Health Minister, Hon. Dr. Fenton Ferguson, says the Government remains committed to pursuing and implementing measures tailored towards increasing the number of volunteers donating blood to the National Blood Transfusion Service (NTBS).

Speaking at a special 65th anniversary commemorative ceremony at the NBTS on Slipe Pen Road, in Kingston, on December 6, Dr. Ferguson said the administration, through the Health Ministry, continues to “actively” examine ways of accomplishing the goal of increasing the complement of voluntary donors.

This, he pointed out, is being pursued through a number of measures aimed at, among other things, safeguarding the quality and standard of procedures for blood collection.

Notable among these, the Minister informed, are: drafting of a five-year strategic plan, in collaboration with the Pan-American Health Organization (PAHO), which has been developed for immediate implementation; a National Policy on Blood, currently being prepared for submission to Cabinet; and Jamaican Standards for blood transfusion services being developed by the Bureau of Standards Jamaica (BSJ), in collaboration with PAHO and other stakeholders, slated to be finalized in early 2014.

Additionally, measures which Dr. Ferguson advised are being pursued or have been implemented, include: commencing blood collection service for the public at the National Chest Hospital in St. Andrew, the only institution that will provide this offering, effective February 2014; improving Hepatitis C screening, which should significantly reduce the infection detection timeline; and audits of the NBTS and National Public Health Laboratory, to strengthen those institutions’ services.

There are also improved transfusion guidelines for clinical use of blood, published and circulated to the institutions islandwide; and procurement of a new blood refrigerator for the NBTS, which has increased blood storage capacity by more than 800 units.

“Voluntary blood donation is the critical pillar that will ensure sufficiency, quality, access, and equity. I stand in full support of the drive to increase the level of voluntary blood donation, as this represents a better path, along with the necessary testing and control measures, to ensure adequate safe blood supply for those who use our health services,” the Minister said.

Dr. Ferguson pointed out that Jamaica has “come a long way” in terms of advances in blood transfusion, but noted the reluctance on the part of some persons to donate blood, based on concerns regarding the safety of the attendant procedures.

“Let me say that Jamaica has done extremely well (in advancing procedures); we have the (ideal) services. It is safe to be a voluntary donor, and we encourage you to do so,” he assured.

Meanwhile, NBTS Director, Dr. Angela Scott, informed that the institution has accomplished much since its establishment on December 6, 1948.

“Today, we serve a diverse population, from newborns to the elderly, victims of trauma, cancer, and many other conditions. We are grateful for the support of successive governments, PAHO, Red Cross of Jamaica, and many non-governmental organisations (NGOs) that assist the institution in carrying out its mandate of providing safe blood,” she said.

Dr. Scott pointed out that the NBTS efforts are heavily dependent on the inputs of voluntary blood donors, emphasizing that, “they have given someone (else) the chance to follow their dreams (by enabling them to live) longer.”

In this regard, she underscored the role which each person must play in the chain of events that brings blood products to those in need.