Thousands of people in need of blood at Kamuzu Central Hospital (KCH)—the country’s second largest referral facility—risk dying following the depletion of the hospital’s blood bank.
The development has forced medics at the facility to start rationing, giving just a pint (450millilitres-ml) to an adult in need of blood and 300ml to children in a similar situation regardless of how much blood they need.
And only those classified as an emergency—that is, those who cannot survive without such a donation—get the blood rations.
With the situation at hand, those classified as non-emergencies, but need additional blood are at the mercy of relations who can donate a blood group needed or pray that should their situation worsen a little they can get a pint or two.
KCH public relations officer Mable Chinkhata confirmed the scarcity of blood at the facility, but fell short of calling the medics’ remedial actions as rationing.
“I do not think we are rationing and I am not comfortable with that word. We are only giving to patients who really need blood and also those who need blood on emergency cases only. Our only source of getting blood is through Malawi Blood Transfusion Service [MBTS] and we are giving [the blood] in accordance with how much we are receiving,” she said.
A nurse at the facility, speaking on condition of anonymity, said those in critical need of the blood are pregnant women coming to the facility for deliveries and the situation is particularly worse for those being referred from district hospitals.
The nurse said those referred come with fewer guardians, thus reducing options for blood donations, adding that there has been an increase in maternal deaths as a result of the situation.
Authorities could not confirm the casualties.
A few days ago, human rights lawyer Chrispine Sibande took to his Facebook account requesting people to go to the facility to donate blood after having a feel of the situation on the ground.
“There was a person who was seriously injured in a road accident. I took him to the hospital with the help of the police, but, although they said he needed four pints of blood, they gave him two because they said blood was in short supply. Fortunately, he survived,” he said in an interview yesterday.
KCH’s Chinkhata said the hospital needs about 60-80 pints of blood a day, but MBTS only satisfies half the requests made.
MBTS public relations officer Allen Kaombe blamed discrepancies in supplies on people’s tendency of not coming forward to donate blood despite qualifying for such.
He said if this continues the situation will also not change in hospitals.
Said Kaombe: “Many Malawians eligible to give blood are not coming forward to donate blood. The situation of blood shortage in hospitals will not improve if all of us in this country do not take part in ensuring that blood is available in the hospitals.
“Every Malawian has the responsibility to ensure that blood is available in the hospitals by donating or encouraging others to donate if they themselves cannot donate.”
He said the blood agency has been collecting 50 000 units of blood for the past five years as opposed to the required 80 000.