A call has been made for St. Lucians to donate blood more often to save lives.
The call came from various health practitioners who addressed a blood donation drive of the International American University (IAU) College of Medicine. The event was held in association with the Ministry of Health and Wellness, through the St. Jude Hospital Blood Bank Services and the Victoria Hospital Blood Bank Services on their observance of World Blood Donor Day, held on June14.
The theme of this year’s event was “Give blood. Give now. Give often”.
In his welcome remarks, Dr. James Villenuva, Dean of Basic Sciences at IAU, said the college sees blood donations as essential and called on St. Lucians to donate blood regularly.
“The lives you save could be yours or your family’s. Donate blood now,” he urged.
He said IAU is playing a leading role in donating blood, adding that 15 students of the college donated blood to the victims following the explosion at Rayneau’s quarry in March which claimed four lives.
District Medical Officer in the Ministry of Health, Shana Philbert, applauded IAU for leading the initiative in raising awareness of the importance of blood donation as well as facilitating the donations.
“Today, I wish to encourage all of us to develop a culture of blood donation. Find out what your blood type is, and if you can give blood, let us ensure that safe blood is available when it is needed,” Philbert said.
She said the availability of blood depends on donors.
“Blood cannot be manufactured. We cannot store it in a pharmacy. The need for blood can arise at any time, especially when we least expect it,” Philbert said.
She added: “In St. Lucia, all blood is tested for HIV, Hepatitis B, Hepatitis C, and Syphilis. Blood is also processed in its different components.”
According to Philbert, to ensure that blood is safe and ready for use, there must be regular donation, testing and processing. She said blood should be given often because screened and processed blood can only be stored for a limited time.
Laboratory Superintendent at St. Jude Hospital, Selwyn Brandon, outlined some of the challenges the hospital is facing as it relates to providing patients with blood.
According to Brandon, St. Jude has many challenges, but is prepared to take them on and put an aggressive programme in place to ensure that they provide a reliable service to the public.
“One of our main challenges is to maintain the interest of donors because our supply of blood has decreased while its need has increased,” he said.
He said the hospital also has problems with its blood mobile unit.
Brandon thanked IAU for always supporting the hospital, describing it as a humanitarian gesture.
“IAU and other organizations are always willing to assist us in order to ensure that we deliver quality service to our clients. IAU has shown dedication to help us through all its blood donation programmes,” he said.
Mayor of Vieux-Fort, OrriciaDenbow, lauded the initiative of IAU, adding that it helps to improve the overall health of residents of the community.
Public Relations Officer of IAU, SibiGopalakrishnan, in an interview with this reporter after the event, said he was satisfied with the level of public participation, adding that this was the ninth year IAU had observed World Blood Donor Day, and will ensure that the event gets bigger and better every year.