Blood donations have dipped again in February, prompting the State Blood Transfusion Council (SBTC) to write a fresh appeal to all 373 blood banks in Maharashtra to renew their efforts in holding blood donation camps.
The state currently has a stock of 43,000 units and records a demand of 3,000 units of blood per day. Its yearly blood collection dropped from 70.23 lakh blood units in 2019 to 15.45 lakh blood units in 2020 due to the Covid-19 pandemic. In December 2020, Maharashtra collected 1.94 lakh blood units, the number fell to 1.53 lakh in January and 1.18 lakh in February, a 39 per cent drop in two months. Mumbai only has 4,827 blood units left.
The SBTC believes that the coming summer months may prove to be a challenge as people are not likely to turn up for donations.
“Last year, people were not even stepping out. All planned surgeries were cancelled. So, the blood requirement is low. But this year, we expect requirements in hospitals to increase,” said Dr Arun Thorat, in-charge of SBTC.
Several NGOs and trusts that earlier held blood camps have completely stopped the exercise. Sunil Mantri, CEO at Shree Aniruddha Upasana Foundation, said it does not wish to put donors at risk of infection and so, stopped holding camps. The trust has 650 centres in Maharashtra and collects 15,000 blood units a year. Every year they hold a major camp in April and collect 6,000-7,000 units. Mantri said ythat unless all their staff members are vaccinated, they don’t plan to hold the April camp this year.
On Tuesday, the father of Pravin Rekulwad (16), admitted to KEM Hospital with a head injury, scouted multiple blood banks for B-negative blood group. The hospital slated his surgery for Thursday but has no B-negative blood group in stock. His father managed to get a unit each from Nair hospital and a private centre in Borivali. “But I need two more units and it’s not available anywhere,” said Balaji Rekulwad.
The worst hit are thalassemia patients. Mumbai has 2,400 registered cases who require blood once or twice a month. Several have to scout for a replacement donor to get a blood unit from the blood bank.
Sudhir Puranik, director of National Service Scheme (NSS) in Mumbai that organises frequent blood camps, said from 300-400 blood units that a regular camp managed to get pre-pandemic, they now receive 30-50 units.
Blood camp organisers are devising new means to get more volunteers. “We have started holding micro blood donation camps. Our volunteers visit just one society and counsel people to donate,” Puranik said. They are able to collect 25-30 blood units in a housing society and have to hold more such camps. Railways have allowed blood camps too. On Tuesday, 330 units were collected from a drive in Churchgate, Dadar and Bandra. Several colleges have been reached out to hold small camps and invite students for donation.
State Health Minister Rajesh Tope, who donated blood last December along with NCP minister Supriya Sule, said SBTC has issued directives to politicians, religious groups and social organisations to step up for donation.