Tobago wants new approach to blood donations


Dr Victor Wheeler, Acting Medical Chief of Staff, Scarborough hospital. –

The Division of Health and the Tobago Regional Health Authority (TRHA) have embarked on a blood donation drive which they believe will mean people will no longer have to beg for blood to save their lives or their loved ones.

At the Buccoo Health Centre on Friday, Dr Victor Wheeler, acting Medical Chief of Staff at the Scarborough Hospital, said this is the start of a process.

“The aim of this is to try to encourage us to transition to the new way of donating blood, transitioning away from the traditional chit system so that we can have a better stockpile of safer, healthier blood, whereby when anyone needs blood, blood would be available.

“We are not there yet, but this is the beginning of our transition. We are trying to bring blood donation and allowing persons to give blood closer to their communities.”

He hopes the initiative will be extended across the island in the near future.

“We hope to have this at several other locations throughout the year.”

He lamented that there is a low stock of blood at the hospital.

“It has been low for years. During covid19, it was even lower. However, in the past few months there have been persons going and appealing for persons to come out and give blood, but those appeals were to give blood for a particular person in need.”

He said the hospital should have 800 units a year, which translates to 500-700 voluntary donors.

“If we have 600 to 700 people who donate blood two or three times per year, that will adequately provide all our needs for a population of 60,000.”

He said it is important to motivate the population, “The most important thing is to demonstrate that there should be no fear of giving blood.”

Health Secretary Dr Faith BYisrael said there is a need to move away from the idea of giving blood only because you know someone who needs it.

“You are giving blood because you know that blood can be used for somebody who you may not even know, someone who you may not even have any contact with. But because you have already given blood, that blood is already there, has been screened, it’s sitting there – you can save a life, and that is what we’re encouraging people to do.”

She said the objective is to develop a database, as it is a mandate of the Tobago House of Assembly and the Government to move to voluntary donations.

“We no longer are saying if your family member needs blood, then you have to come with the little chit that says: ‘I donated blood for John Doe.’

“We recognise that this puts a lot of stress on the families.”

She urged other people and groups to become donors.

“We are asking Tobagonians to please follow us as we move throughout the communities.

“The chairs that we have, they were donated so we can move them around. We would be going to other health facilities throughout the island. We would also be able to go to community centres, so it doesn’t necessarily have to be in a health facility.”

Asked about using a mobile unit for the roving initiatives, she said: “I am hoping that sometime in the future, we would be able to have an actual physical bus…but we are not there yet.”

Blood donor nurse Michelle Bruce-Keith was hopeful that people would subscribe to the initiative.

“Thus far, it has started off slow but eventually it would pick up. It’s new, so we are hoping for the best.”

Assistant Secretary of Infrastructure, Quarries and Urban Development and electoral representative for Crown Point/Bon Accord Joel Sampson was on hand to donate.

He said blood donation was very important in society.

“I chose to be a part of the initiative, donating and doing my part that will lead to saving a life or two in the near future.”

Another donor, Nicholas Romeo of Canaan, said he took the opportunity as it was happening nearby.

“I chose to come and donate – I am a regular donor.”

To others who may be considering donating but are afraid, he said: “It is nothing to be scared about. I know some people are afraid of needles, but it doesn’t feel any way, it’s like someone pinched you – after that it’s smooth running, nothing to be afraid of.”

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