Power Cuts Threaten Blood Bank Operations

THE National Blood Service of Zimbabwe (NBSZ), says it is appealing to the national power utility (ZESA) to at least connect the blood bank to a special power grid so as to ensure blood is maintained at normal temperatures at all times

By Michael Gwarisa

The development comes amidst indications that the blood bank, which is a critical blood storage facility has not been spared by the prevailing power outages and should the situation continue unabated, the organisation would be forced to dispose and or burn tonnes of blood since it wont safe for transfusion.

In an interview, NBSZ Public Affairs Manager, Ms Esther Massundah said her organisation was engaging the power utility over the power situation which could negatively affect operations at the blood bank.

The NBSZ is affected and is engaging ZESA to present its case on the need to be put on a special grid.

“We run on generator most of the time and the power outages affect our testing machines. We depend a lot on power in our operations,” said Massundah.

Power outages may lead to expiration of blood and blood products and according to World Health Organisation (WHO) standards, expired blood must be discarded.

Blood has a shelf life of four weeks and if blood is not ordered within that period it  is disposed. However, with the prevailing power cuts blood could easily go bad and the blood bank could lose large volumes of blood.

The blood bank runs on specialised blood refrigeration technology which requires uninterrupted power supplies. Demand for blood in Zimbabwe has gone up following the introduction of the free blood initiative and should the blood bank lose blood to power outages, the nation could be plunged into an irreversible crisis.

Meanwhile, the power crisis has also not spared health institutions around the country. Zimbabwe Hospitals Doctors Association (ZHDA) spokesperson, Dr Anele Bhebe said the power situation in the country was interfering with normal health processes and backup generators were failing to sustain the services at health institutions.

“In most cases, all machines would not be working except for a few lamps that are sustained by generators that always constantly run out of fuel. The situation is dire enough to disrupt normal and basic hospital operations,” said Dr Bhebe.

At Inyathi Hospital in Matebeleland, all caesarean sections patients are being referred to Mpilo hospital. Even for some basic tests, patient have to either go to Mpilo or wait for power to be restored.

At Parirenyatwa Hospital, power cuts are also being experienced even though the Public Relations manager Mr Linos Dhire said they have the situation under control.

“We are not being affected at all by the power outages, we are not even facing any challenges, and besides, we have backup power from generators,” said Dire.

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