JIS News

The National Blood Transfusion Service (NBTS) is currently developing a five-year strategic plan, aimed at boosting its intake of blood from donors to at least 50,000 units per annum.

The NBTS, also known as the Blood Bank, is the central public health institution responsible for collecting, storing and allocating blood, based on medical needs.

Former NBTS Director, Dr. Lundie Richards, who currently has technical oversight for the entity, told JIS News that work on the plan is currently being finalized, and expressed the hope that it will be ready for implementation by the second quarter of 2013.

Dr. Richards, who is currently Director of the National Public Health Laboratory, which is also based on Slipe Pen Road in Kingston, noted that while the daily requirement for blood averages between 300 and 500 units, collections by the NBTS and other public health institutions, designated as collection centres, such as the Kingston Public Hospital (KPH), total a mere 150 and 200 units per day “on a good day.”

In light of this, he stressed that central to addressing this anomaly will be increasing the number of voluntary blood donors, adding that this will be comprehensively addressed in the strategic plan.

Dr. Richards pointed out that the plan in being developed in partnership with the institution’s various private and public sector stakeholders, including the Ministry of Health and the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO).

Work on enhancing the Blood Bank’s capacity has already commenced with the recent acquisition of a refrigerator to store blood, at a cost of $1.5 million, with funds provided by the National Health Fund (NHF). This has boosted the bank’s storage capacity from 500 units to over 1,300.

Meanwhile, Health Minister, Hon. Dr. Fenton Ferguson, has underscored the need to provide the NBTS with the support necessary to implement strategies that will boost voluntary donations.

During a recent tour of the National Public Health Laboratory, Dr. Ferguson said increasing the number of voluntary blood donors would ensure that adequate supplies are in place.

“The idea of persons just coming at a time when they have loved ones (in need of blood) is not ideal. We really want to develop this system of voluntary blood donations, and this has to get some support,” the Minister said.

He cited, for example, the setting up of mobile clinics, so that persons across the island could volunteer and donate blood.

Dr. Ferguson toured the National Public Health Laboratory and the Blood Bank after $60 million worth of refurbishing and upgrading work were completed at the two facilities. The repairs were funded by the National Health Fund.