KZN needs more donors

2016-03-28 10:00
(From left) SANBS technical specialist Cindy Majola, medical technician Clive Poobalan and quality and project supervisor Ntsiki Nyuswa test blood samples from blood donated to SANBS.

(From left) SANBS technical specialist Cindy Majola, medical technician Clive Poobalan and quality and project supervisor Ntsiki Nyuswa test blood samples from blood donated to SANBS. (Chelsea Pieterse, The Witness)

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Pietermaritzburg - Less than one percent of potential KwaZulu-Natal blood donors are donating blood to the cause of saving lives.

This, as stock levels of blood supply are at a critical level of just two days for the Easter weekend, when minimum stock levels are supposed to be at five days.

With a decreasing number of donors across the country, few people know of the processes blood goes through to be cleared for transfusion and its other important uses, like donated plasma, which is used to treat burns and dog bites.

A tour of the South African National Blood Service (SANBS) laboratories in Eden Road, Pinetown, revealed a dedicated team of technicians and specialists, state-of-the-art testing equipment and intricate, accurate data storage systems.

SANBS marketing manager Charles Maharaj said less than one percent of the South African population donates blood, and of these, 50%-60% are schoolchildren. With 10,6 million people in KZN, only 2,5 million are potential donors. Millions may not donate due to illnesses they have or have had and because they are either too young or too old.

The SANBS laboratory processes around 1 000 samples of blood from donors each day, with some not passing rigorous screenings for HIV and other viruses.

SANBS quality and project supervisor Ntsiki Nyuswa said the lab was made up of three stations, all responsible for different elements of processing blood for transfusions.

The first station, Processing and Inventory, receives the blood from the various clinics, including Johannesburg and Port Elizabeth, for testing and confirmation of test results and blood grouping.

The lab then separates the blood from the plasma and the buffy coat, the fraction of a blood sample that contains most of the white blood cells and platelets.

The plasma is sent to the National Bioproducts Institute, which uses it to create treatments for blood diseases and illnesses.

The buffy coat is mixed with an additive platelet solution and spun and once finished, can be used in platelet transfusions for those suffering from leukemia and similar diseases.

Blood and plasma samples are sent to the second station, the Nucleic Acid Testing lab, where the plasma samples are tested for HIV, hepatitis C and hepatitis B. Results that are positive for these illnesses are immediately contaminated and destroyed.

However, a labeled and barcoded sample is kept in a storage freezer if the sample is needed for testing in the future.

Samples are tested twice for accuracy and only equipment that has not produced any inaccurate results since it was installed 12 years ago is used.

“Everything is barcoded and completely traceable, so this does not present any problems of mixing and losing samples,”’ said Nyuswa.

The Bio Repository section is the last step in the process, where results are checked and confirmed through Meditech system, a company working with SANBS.

The system pulls up all the information and tests on the blood by scanning in the barcoded sample tube.

SANBS marketing manager Charles Maharaj said South Africa is among five countries deemed to have the safest blood in the world.

He said some schools in KwaZulu-Natal have 50-50% HIV positive rate among their pupils, therefore education on a balanced and healthy life was extremely important.

“Many people think blood is only used when someone is in a car accident and loses a lot of blood, but this is not the case,” he said.

“Blood transfusions occur most often during childbirth, and with one child born every minute in South Africa, blood is needed each and every single day.”

He said leukemia in children had also increased dramatically.

“It is as if something is in the water. These children need hundreds of pints of blood over the span of their treatment and we make sure that every hospital in the country has a fridge with blood stock.” He said KZN was a big importer of blood, as the province did not collect enough in donations.

Read more on:    pietermaritzburg  |  kwazulu-natal  |  sanbs  |  blood donation

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