People can donate blood anytime, for as long as they feel they are healthy enough, and do not have to participate in blood letting campaigns, according to the Department of Health, as it pushed its blood donation advocacy.

With more than a hundred million population (104 million based on the latest figures from the Population Commission), the Philippines needs approximately 1 million blood units annually to ensure supply will not run out.

It was the World Health Organization which stated that for a country to keep its blood supply adequate, one percent of its total population must donate yearly.

But as of June 2017, only 500,000 blood units have been collected for the country's supply, and it has yet to reach the one million target.

In 2015, the target fell short by 230,000 units, and while the supply increased to 920,000 blood units in 2016, it was still inadequate based on the 1 percent of population goal. Half of the supply was provided by the Philippine Red Cross.

"We expect by December to reach the 1 million blood units," a hopeful Secretary of Health Paulyn Ubial told media during a press conference held at the Philippine Blood Center on September 19.

Unconditional gift of life

Who needs blood and why is it important to keep a steady supply? Mothers who give birth may need blood. So do victims of accidents who may be haemorrhaging. Hemophilia and leukemia patients, as well as people who will undergo surgery all need blood.

People must realize that every unit of blood donated is divided into three main components, all of which are essential, according to the National Voluntary Blood Service Program. What is actually extracted is whole blood, which is separated into plasma, red cells and platelets.

The minimum interval between donations is 12 weeks or 3 months, to allow the body to replenish its iron stock. 

Who are eligible to donate blood? A person in good health, between the ages of 16 to 65, weighs at least 100 pounds, have a blood pressure of 90-160 mmhg systolic and 60-100 mmhg diastolic, and will pass the physical and health history assessment during screening can donate blood.

Assessors will check the possible donors’ eligibility for blood donation using a checklist. People with cancer, who suffered from cardiac arrest, have severe lung cancer, hepatitis B and C, suffer from chronic alcoholism, have HIV and Sexually Transmitted Diseases (STDs) may not be allowed to donate.

“Blood donors are considered modern heroes who care enough to spend time to share their blood in order to save another person’s life,” according to the service program.

Donors will first be screened to determine if they are eligible to give blood.

Donors will first be screened to determine if they are eligible to give blood.

“We cannot manufacture blood, it must come from people who willingly donate,” Secretary Ubial underscored.

The Health department also noted that “providing timely access through maintaining a pool of regular, voluntary and unpaid blood donors to create an adequate and reliable blood supply of safe blood for all is vital.”

No need to wait for mass blood drives

“We remind the public that whenever we feel well-rested, we should not wait for a mass donation event [to donate],” Secretary Ubial said.

“Anytime you feel good and well, you can walk in to any health center and donate blood,” she added. She herself was at the Center to donate blood.

Earlier, she explained that it is impossible to determine how much blood the public will need at any given time, citing the Marawi siege, where more blood was required than usual. Thus the importance of encouraging walk-in blood donors to have a steady supply.

Some blood donation benefits for the donor include lowered risk for stroke and heart attacks, enhancement of blood production, and some other tokens given by the department.

Where to donate?

Most hospitals usually have a blood service facility such as blood centers, blood banks or blood collecting units and anyone can just walk in to say they will donate blood. There are also selected hospital-based blood service facilities which are open 24 hours a day and 7 days a week to assist blood donors.

The Philippine Blood Center, according to the Health chief, has a directory of blood donors and their specific blood types.

"When somebody needs blood, then we call the pool of blood donors in the registry and we get the needed type of blood in that particular day," she said.

The Philippine Blood Center, DOH hospitals, Philippine Red Cross and LGUs/NGOs all have blood service facilities.

She further reminded the public that the practice of remuneration in exchange for donating blood is a 'thing of the past.' Instead, "blood donation should be voluntary and non-remunerated."

Blood Olympics

In a related development, the Department of Health (DOH) will be conducting Blood Olympics, a blood donation drive which resembles a competition, in October. The launch will be in the Central Office in Manila and will be held in other government agencies. It hopes to enjoin more blood donors.

“The initiative will sustain the effort of DOH, the Philippine Red Cross and the Philippine Blood Coordinating Council in pushing volunteerism in blood donation,” the department said in a statement.

“We enjoin all potential donors to visit our blood service facilities to give blood, give now and give often,” the Secretary concluded. MIMS

Photos taken with permission from National Kidney and Transplant Institute

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