Blood shortage has hit the newly established National Cancer Centre at Kamuzu Central Hospital (KCH) in Lilongwe, leading to panic among medical staff and patients in need of the life-saving commodity.
The situation is dire that it has taken some concerned medical staff to sound an alarm through the social media asking the public to donate blood.
One of the widely circulated messages on WhatsApp called on willing blood donors to go to Malawi Blood Transfusion Services (MBTS) offices in Lilongwe and make their donation.
Reads the message in part: “We need more blood at Cancer Centre, especially Paediatrics Department. We are failing to administer chemotherapy because our patients are anaemic.”
During a visit to the National Cancer Centre yesterday, staff confirmed that blood was indeed in short supply.
In random interviews, medical staff, who opted for anonymity, corroborated that while all sections of KCH need blood, the cancer centre was the most affected.
National Cancer Centre head of department and chief oncologist Richard Nyasosera said in an interview the centre has been facing a critical shortage of blood for the past six weeks.
He said the centre, which on average helps 20 chemotherapy patients daily, was now planning to establish a blood bank to stop depending on KCH which has several competing needs.
He said: “In our sessions, we need blood every day and in huge quantity because we cannot administer chemotherapy without blood.
“This shortage is really affecting our efforts as a centre and more importantly it is affecting our patients, most of whom travel a long distance just to access this service.”
Nyasosera said eight people out of those admitted to the adult section of the centre last week were unable to get blood because there was not enough stocks.
He said: “Each of them needed three units of blood, but they could not get it. As a plan B, we sometimes give them tablets which do not really help and the only solution is to give them blood.
“So, we really have no option, but to give them blood. We think depending on KCH main lab is proving to be a problem. We just need our own blood bank.”
Nysasosera’s frustrations are shared by some medical staff, patients and guardians we spoke to at the centre, who indicated that the situation is getting out of hand and is betraying the good intention of establishing the cancer centre.
One nurse said: “As I am talking to you, I have a list of nine people who need blood, but we can only manage three and these are patients who are admitted here at the centre in the adult ward.
“On a working day, we have at least 20 patients who come for chemotherapy and need blood. So you can see the pressure.”
Another medical staff The Nation met at Ethel Mutharika Maternity Wing at KCH said that almost all sections of the hospital were facing shortage of blood because the supply of late has not been enough.
She said: “If you go to emergency/casualty section and other sections they will tell the same thing that we do not get what we need. We need more awareness to have more blood donors.
“But for the National Cancer Centre, the situation is indeed out of hand from what I am hearing. I mean chemotherapy is an important aspect for managing cancer, but without blood it does not really help.”
Efforts to establish the current stock levels of blood at KCH proved futile yesterday as KCH Hospital director Jonathan Ngoma said he was not in the office.
When we shared with him the social media post calling for support, Ngoma said he was not sure who brought it up and wondered why only one section of the hospital was affected. MBTS spokesperson Allen Kaombe could not be reached for comment.