Health Minister: New system coming for blood donation

The content originally appeared on: Trinidad and Tobago Newsday

Stock photo source: Pixabay.com

Health Minister Terrence Deyalsingh has announced TT will be switching to a voluntary blood donation system.

Speaking at the opening of an orthopaedic ward and surgical theatre at the Princess Elizabeth home in Woodbrook on April 27, he said, “Our system of blood collection in TT for decades has been dysfunctional. It has not been equitable.”

Patients in both private and public hospitals have to find donors to give blood for their respective needs.

Explaining how this system can be dangerous and not equitable, he said, “All the evidence around the world shows people of different socio-economic levels will have different degrees of ease for finding people like friends and family to give blood.

“Many people resort to dangerous sources of blood donation.”

Giving examples, he said desperate people sometimes pay people in the street, which often results in the donation of blood tainted with HIV, hepatitis and Chagas disease.

On people appealing for blood donation, he said, “I hate to hear a radio announcer making an appeal to the country for blood.”

He said the ministry had been in the process of moving the country away from the chit system before the pandemic, as it is regarded as a form of remuneration.

He said blood donation should be non-remunerated, including non-monetary benefits. With the current chit system, he said the benefit is getting to choose the recipient of the donation.

“Those days have to be over. We have to move this country from the current chit system, which is not equitable, which is dangerous, which does not give you a reliable supply of safe blood, to what we call voluntary non-remunerable altruistic blood donation.

“It means you have given blood without a care in the world about who is going to receive this blood.”

He said the country must also move away from patients needing to give blood in advance of having surgery.

Deyalsingh said to achieve this goal, 1.5 per cent of the population needs to sign up to be voluntary altruistic blood donors.

“If you get 20,000 people to give blood twice a year, that is 40,000 pints of blood per year. We estimate that will take care of the needs of all of our citizens in TT without the stress of finding blood.”

He said the new system will be launched on Blood Donation Day, June 14.