KINGSTON — The long-awaited national blood policy, currently in draft form, should be finalised by the end of the calendar year.
The policy is part of a national strategy to ensure access to safe and reliable blood supply and achieve 100 per cent voluntary blood donation.
"We are also working on the regulations governing the blood service, which have been drafted based on various adoptions from countries that have best practice in blood donation such as Canada, New Zealand, and Australia,” said Director of Emergency Management and Special Services in the Ministry of Health, Dr. Marion Bullock-DuCasse.
She was speaking on behalf of portfolio Minister, Hon. Rudyard Spencer, at the launch of a guidebook aimed at improving blood transfusion practices in Jamaica, held on September 13 at the Ministry’s downtown Kingston offices.
The document, developed by the Ministry in collaboration with the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) and other partners, provides guidance in the practice of transfusion medicine in accordance with good clinical procedures; encourages consistency and appropriateness of transfusion; and seeks to increase consumer awareness of the benefits and risks of blood component therapy, and the conservation of blood.
Dr. Bullock-DuCasse said the launch of the document signals Jamaica’s commitment to implementing strategies that will help to achieve universal access to safe blood transfusion.
"This strategy is also crucial in helping us to achieve the 2015 Millennium Development Goals of combating HIV/AIDS, reducing child mortality and improving maternal mortality. Haemorrhage, for example, accounts for over 25 per cent of the 530, 000 maternal deaths each year; 90 per cent of these are in the developing world. Access to safe blood could held to prevent up to quarter of maternal deaths each year, and blood transfusion has been identified as one of the eight life-saving functions that should be available in a first-referral level healthcare facility providing comprehensive emergency obstetric and newborn care,” she added.
She said Jamaica has maintained a distinguished record of consistently providing safe blood and urged medical professionals to familiarise themselves with the manual.
Turning to the need to improve blood donation, the Ministry of Health official stated that the collection of no less than 45, 000 units of blood from voluntary donations to meet annual demand, must become a reality.
"We are also aiming to achieve 100 per cent voluntary blood donation based on the recognition that voluntary non-remunerated blood donors are the foundation of a safe, sustainable blood supply. We need to move away from the reliance of the health care system on family/replacement donation and attract adequate and consistent numbers of voluntary donors,” she argued.
Dr. Bullock-DuCasse further pointed to the need to build effective partnerships with organisations that can help to mobilise their employees, friends and families to become regular donors.
She informed that a number of organisations have built successful partnerships with the blood bank over the years, citing Guardian Life, which just a few weeks ago, donated 100 pints of blood that went towards cardiac surgery for children.
She also mentioned the University of the West Indies (UWI), which contributes 400 to 500 units annually, Scotia Bank, Lucozade, Northern Caribbean University (NCU), University of Technology (UTECH), the army, the police and fire brigade.
"We hope that more organisations will join us in our efforts to requite voluntary donors,” she stated.
By Garfield L. Angus, JIS Reporter