Coronavirus: New clinics to be opened by blood donation service

Plans in place to ensure clinics can stay open in the event of further travel restrictions

Donations have fallen in Northern Ireland but there is a contingency to get blood from the NHS in Britain.

Donations have fallen in Northern Ireland but there is a contingency to get blood from the NHS in Britain.

 

When Patricia Russell gave blood in Limerick last week, she did so in a hotel which was about to close because of coronavirus.

“I did think, should I go or not, because coronavirus is in everybody’s head now,” she says. “You couldn’t but think of it.

“But then you think, what if there was a car accident, or somebody needed blood, and you just do it. If you’re feeling well, and you don’t have anything wrong with you, why not?”

Russell, from Meelick, Co Clare, began donating blood after her mother died of cancer in 2013; she had received blood transfusions during her treatment. “That was what started me donating,” she explains.

From Monday, the Irish Blood Transfusion Service (IBTS) is moving donor clinics to larger venues countrywide so it can put more space between donors to obey social distancing guidelines.

Donors will be asked to make appointments, too: “In spite of Covid-19, we still need to collect about 80 per cent of our normal supply,” said Andy Kelly, IBTS chief executive.

“Cancer patients, transplant cases, trauma and others with conditions that require ongoing support with blood components rely on blood donors as much as ever.”

“We are grateful for the support donors have given so far and the blood supply at this time remains good, however the need for blood donations is ongoing and we are now planning for the weeks ahead,” added Mr Kelly.

Italian experience

The 80 per cent supply need is based on the Italian experience, which saw demand there fall by about a fifth because of fewer traffic crashes, and less work-related accidents or sports injuries.

The latest restriction to apply to potential blood donors is that they must not show any symptoms of Covid-19, and must not have travelled outside the island of Ireland within the past 14 days. Full details for donors can be found at giveblood.ie.

The IBTS had moved to build up stocks ahead of the crisis: “Obviously, we knew the situation was going to get worse and we might be seriously impacted by the availability of donors.”

Donor numbers, so far, have remained steady. Contingency plans are in place to ensure clinics can stay open in the event of further travel restrictions, though the IBTS wants donors to be exempted, if that happens.

In Spain, donors were given written permission to leave their homes to donate blood: “So, we will be asking that that will happen similarly in Ireland so we can maintain blood supply,” said Mr Kelly.

Northern Ireland has seen donations numbers fall slightly: “We would be concerned [that] it would put donors off coming,” says Matt Gillespie, supply chain manager with the Northern Ireland Blood Transfusion Service (NIBTS).

“We are continuing to encourage people to come because we still need donations,” said Mr Gillespie, adding that Northern Ireland would be able to get emergency supplies from Britain, if that proves necessary.