Covid fears keep vital blood donors away

3D illustration of Coronavirus, virus which causes SARS and MERS, Middle East Respiratory Syndrome
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By Gemma Handy

Blood supplies at Mount St John’s Medical Centre are running perilously short as fear of contracting the coronavirus is deterring would-be donors from visiting the hospital.

The number of regular donors has nosedived by around 90 percent, Malika Haywood, medical technologist at the hospital’s blood bank, told Observer.

Patients typically need blood transfusions for everything from surgery to cancer treatment, and chronic illnesses to road traffic accidents.

“People are generally afraid of needles but now they’re afraid of Covid. Even people who have relatives in need of blood are scared to come out and donate,” Haywood explained.

“Supplies are really low. The number of people who donated before was pretty low; it’s now down by about 90 percent.”

The need to social distance to curtail the coronavirus spread means it is impossible for hospital officials to launch a blood drive.

“The amount of people we would expect to come would be too many to do social distancing,” Haywood continued.

But donors are being urged to contact the hospital for details of how they can help.

“Those who are willing to donate voluntarily – or for someone in particular – can still come along. If there are too many people, we don’t allow them to come down to the lab at the same time.

“They can sit in the car while they fill out the form and we then request they come in two by two,” she said.
Donors will be asked to go directly to the hospital’s second floor to avoid passing the emergency department.

The usual hours to give blood are from 9am to 6pm. Donors will be accommodated outside those times in the event of an emergency.

All types of blood are needed, Haywood said.
And people are being assured they face no risk of contracting the virus by attending.

All equipment used, such as needles, is single-use only, she confirmed.

“Before anyone gives blood, we ensure they are physically in a suitable condition to do so. We make sure they are healthy, comfortable and that their blood pressure is okay,” Haywood said.

She added that donors’ temperature is also taken to ensure they are Covid-free.

International guidelines state that any adult can give blood provided they are in good health and feel well, weigh at least 110 pounds, and have not donated in the last 56 days.

Roughly one pint of blood is taken and most people feel fine afterwards. Anyone feeling faint or fatigued is advised to lie down until they feel better.

The average human body contains about 10 pints of blood. The body naturally replenishes the volume lost within 48 hours, and the red blood cells within four to eight weeks.

Anyone wishing to donate blood should call the hospital lab on 484-2720, the switchboard on 484-2700 or Haywood directly on 764-1161.

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