Minister of Health Terrence Deyalsingh said the healthcare system gets an average of 20,000 units of blood annually across all blood banks in TT but it needs at least twice the amount.
Even though the World Health Organisation recommends that one unit of blood be collected for every 20 people per year.
Deyalsingh was speaking on Saturday as the UWI Blood Donor Foundation held its tri-monthly blood drive at the Mt Hope Blood Bank of the Eric Williams Medical Sciences Complex, Champs Fleurs. The one-day blood donation drive began at 8 am and ended at 4 pm.
Chairman of UWI Blood Donor Foundation Dr Kenneth Charles said, “We did this before Carnival to cater for the increased needs during Carnival and usually there’s a slump of blood donations during Carnival. So this will ensure that there is some blood into the blood system that is unconditional – doesn’t belong to anybody.”
Deyalsingh added, “With the old system, we were collecting 20,000 per annum which is desperately low. We need for proper patient care about 40,000 pints at minimum.”
He said this new system will move parallel to the current one whereby if someone donates blood, it goes straight to a patient that they already know.
“That system of giving blood altruistically results in a system of blood donation which is more predictable, safer, and serves the country better,” said Deyalsingh.
This new system was started on June 14, last year and Deyalsingh said that the objective of it is to have fewer patients and families worry about if there will be enough blood for their operations and reduce the trauma of patients having their operations postponed because of no blood donations.
“We need to have an 'army of good' of around 20,000 people to come onto our database to give blood. To date, we are close to 2,000 units. It will take us about two to three years to get there, it’s not going to happen overnight,” he said.
To build his “army of good,” Deyalsingh said, people between the ages of 18 and 45 are needed “especially those with at least secondary or tertiary education because all the evidence globally tells you that is the cohort of people who feel this need to want to give back to your country.”
He said UWI fits that demographic, but the ministry and the foundation will be looking at gathering volunteers from the Bankers' Association of TT, the insurance and manufacturing industries to build the database.
First-time donor Onyca George said she was scared at first, but realised there was nothing to worry about.
She added, “The people here was so welcoming and made me feel comfortable so I definitely encourage people to come and donate.”