Blood collections continue inlockdown

Staff Ntombizandile Rorwana, left, and Alee Abrahams donating blood at the Pinelands office.

The Western Cape Blood Service (WCBS) has continued collecting blood from donors during the past two months of lockdown.

Its head office is in Pinelands and blood is donated at centres in N1 City, Blue Route Mall and Long Street.

The service has regional branches in Paarl, Worcester and George.

WCBS spokeswoman Marika Grevers says there is no reason to suspect that Covid-19 can be transmitted through blood transfusion.

“This is based on the fact that respiratory viruses, in general, are not known to be transmitted by blood transfusion, and there have been no reported cases of transfusion-transmitted coronavirus.”

The service takes strict precautions, she says, to protect staff, donors and recipients from Covid-19:

Donors’ temperatures are taken when they arrive and must be under 37.5 degrees.

Donors complete a Covid-19 screening questionnaire.

Donors who have travelled outside the country are deferred for 28 days.

Staff have all been issued with personal protective equipment (PPE), such as face masks.

Staff wash their hands regularly with soap and water and use hand sanitiser before and after each encounter with a donor.

Cleaning and disinfection procedures for frequently used objects and surfaces have been enhanced.

All donors must sanitise their hands before entering a clinic.

Queue control and limiting the numbers of beds and donors maintain physical distancing.

Donors must wear a mask/ face covering.

The WCBS was established in October 1938 with the first meeting of the Cape Peninsula Blood Transfusion Service at Groote Schuur Hospital.

“It was a slow start, with only 200 donors enrolling in the first three months and an average of 30 transfusions per month,” says Ms Grevers.

It has gone from opening its first blood service office in 1942 in St George’s Street in Cape Town to establishing its first mobile unit in 1949. The head office moved to Commerce House in Cape Town in 1953, and in 1960 the service opened branches in Worcester, Paarl, George and Upington. The head office moved to the Foreshore in 1967. From the 1970s to the mid 1980s, the service expanded to include a bank for frozen red blood cells, to paternity testing and testing for HIV.

Last year it changed its name from Western Province Blood Transfusion Service to its current name.

Its head office in Pinelands, which is 30 years old, along with the other donor centres, collects an average of 145 000 units of blood a year.

The peak in demand is over the December holidays, the Easter weekend and winter.

Units of blood are transported to WCBS offices for testing and processing. Blood is spun down and separated into three key components: platelets, plasma and red blood cells. “Every unit is blood grouped and tested for HIV, hepatitis B and C and syphilis,” says Mr Grevers.

Fridges and freezers store different blood products at different temperatures. Plasma can be kept for a year if kept at -18ºC, platelets can be kept for five days and red blood cells for 42 days. There are back-up generators for the fridges in case of load shedding.

“When samples are cleared, blood and blood products are sent to blood banks and emergency blood fridges in hospitals,” Ms Grevers says.

The WCBS uses the ABO blood grouping system, which includes A+ and A-, B+ and B-, AB + and AB -, then the universal donor blood group O+ and O-.

O+ donors can give blood to all the positive blood groups while O- donors can give to all the blood groups.

“The AB+ blood group is the universal recipient and can receive blood from all the blood groups,” she says. One in three South Africans are either O+ or A+.

Ms Grevers says the demand for blood has increased over the past two weeks.

“We are grateful for the blood donors support during this Covid-19 crisis, though we have seen a decrease in our O-, B+ and B- blood stocks and urge all healthy eligible donors from all blood groups to please come out and donate blood.”

To find out more about donating blood to the WCBS, call 021 507 6300, WhatsApp 060 549 7244 or email info@wcbs.org.za .