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Covid-19 Pandemic sparking blood crisis in Vizag


Another crisis is brewing in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic. A sharp drop in the number of blood donation camps and in the availability of blood in Visakhapatnam, family members of patients, doctors, and blood bank officials said. Several blood banks like A S Raja Voluntary Blood Bank, NTR Trust Blood Bank, Lions Blood Bank are unable to provide required blood even after waiting for a long time. On Thursday, Hello Vizag went around most of the blood banks in the city to check the factual picture.

Most of them were running from one blood bank to another for a few units of blood. From the time the Covid-19 hit Vizag, the number of blood donation camps has kept decreasing. The situation is getting worsened as time goes by, said officials of multiple blood banks. Practically all blood banks are providing blood only if those in need are able to bring donors, said family members of patients as well as blood bank officials.

Janardhan Rao, a resident of Thatichetlapalem, needed three units of blood for his father, who was admitted to a hospital on Wednesday. Even after reaching the blood bank on Thursday early morning with two donors, officials of the blood bank said to me that there was no guarantee that I would get blood even after I took two donors, Rao said to Hello Vizag. Soon after, somehow, I managed to get two units of blood by approaching another blood bank, added Rao.

Sathyasri, a thalassemia patient from PM Palem, was waiting outside a blood bank in Ram Nagar. The 16-year-old who needs one unit of blood three to four times a month, said was having a donor accompany him every time she underwent over the past four months. She said she had been collecting blood from the various blood banks ever since she was 7 years old and all employees of the blood bank knew her well. “What an irony, knowing me very well for such a long time is of no use to get required units of blood even if I bring donor along with me. Covid-19 added fuel to the existing crisis” she said with a heavy heart.

A similar shortage of blood is also being felt at every hospital in Vizag. On average, a daily requirement of 10 to 15 units of blood to meet emergency requirements during pre-COVID-19 times. But over the past four months, the requirement has remained the same but the emergency stock has gone down to four or five units.

Speaking on the condition of anonymity with Hello Vizag, an employee of the corporate hospital said, indeed we are facing a shortage of blood and we are trying to maintain the minimum stock because some patients’ families are bringing donors. It is becoming difficult to procure blood from outside, too, because most of the blood banks in the city also witnessing the same trend of shortage.

The same kind of exasperation was echoed by other hospitals, too. Normally, there is no shortage of blood around this time every year due to blood donation camps organized post-independence day. But, this year due to the Covid-19 pandemic no more blood donation camps, said the manager of the blood bank. Although the demand for blood has remained steady, the supply has gone down manifold.

A senior doctor working for a private hospital said patients suffering from thalassemia, hemophilia, cell disorders or blood cancer routinely need a blood transfusion. They are among the worst-hit. Even for the Covid-19 patients who have other illnesses such as chronic kidney disease or are anemic need a few units of blood at a time. Dr. K Srinivas, a critical care expert who is treating Covid-19 patients spoke to Hello Vizag said “suppose there is a Covid-19 patient whose hemoglobin count is 6. Sometimes, they need a few units of blood.”

NGOs and social activists who organize blood donation camps, doctors as well blood bank officials attributed the crisis to the fact that no blood donation camp was being held in the city. Social welfare organizations, political parties, and clubs used to take the lead in organizing such camps. But most people are staying away from organizing camps because of the pandemic.

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