Untested blood…
Facts from report do not necessarily refer to NBTS
Dr McEwan

Kaieteur News
November 24, 2006

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The National Blood Transfusion Service (NBTS) has refuted a Kaieteur News article which stated that it has permitted blood to be transfused before being completely tested for transmissible infections.

At a press conference held at the NBTS Lamaha Street boardroom yesterday, Director Dr Clement McEwan told media operatives that the Blood Bank is tasked with supplying all regional hospitals, the public hospitals and private hospitals, with blood and blood products and at no point in time has it allowed untested blood to be transfused.

“All units of blood for transfusion purposes are screened and tested as mandated by the draft National Blood Policy,” Dr McEwan asserts.

He declared that the article published in the Tuesday's edition of the Kaieteur News paper was misleading and frightening since it conveys a message that unsafe blood is stored at the NBTS, intended for transfusion.

Dr McEwan stressed that the Blood Bank has been operating in conformity with the World Health Organisation and the Pan American Health Organisation's resolutions over a number of years.

“We are in the business of saving lives…It would be counterproductive not to ensure that our units of blood are properly screened,” he posited.

But according to the recently published National Strategic Plan for Blood Safety 2006-2010, the NBTS has a number of weaknesses in its operation.

The report states the current blood supply is not sufficient to meet the demand and the inefficiencies in the system have led to only 67 per cent of blood being garnered from prospective donors in 2004.

And while there is almost total dependency on family replacement rather than volunteer blood donors, the report states “…pre- transfusion testing in all the hospital transfusion services is not complete, leading to an occasional blood transfusion being administered prior to completions of testing for transfusion transmissible infections,” the report stated.

It added that this potentially catastrophic situation results from organisational problems.

The report further states that the lack of clinical guidelines for the appropriate use of blood and blood products is of great concern.

As such it notes that the lack of knowledge of the minimum requirements of the blood cold chain, particularly during transportation, holding in the ward and infusion, also contributes to weakness in the system.

Additionally, the report states that there needs to be greater temperature control of the refrigerators with the appropriate knowledge of the reasons and frequency for checking and control of the temperature of the blood during the infusion to patients.

However, McEwan notes that while the report states these facts, they do not necessarily refer to the NBTS.

Checks yesterday revealed that only one private hospital has a Blood Bank.

An official at that hospital assured that the institution ensures that all blood for transfusions is screened and tested.

When supplies run out, the institution turns to the NBTS for blood.

Officials at all the other private hospitals said that they do not store blood but depend on the NBTS for supplies.

• McEwan concurs that there are and will continue to be some risks involved in the transfusion of blood since the process is not 100 per cent safe. (Sharmain Grainger)