CEBU, Philippines — The Department of Health-7 yesterday condemned the alleged selling of blood from recovered COVID-19 patients to those who need it, advising the public not to patronize such activity.
This developed as the Office of the Presidential Assistant for the Visayas, DOH-7 and the Department of Social Welfare and Development-7 launched the Donate Blood! Save Lives! Campaign, a series of mobile blood donation activities in Cebu.
The campaign is in coordination with the national government offices, the Philippine National Police, the Armed Forces of the Philippines and the private sector.
DOH-7 chief pathologist and spokesperson Mary Jean Loreche said reports have reached their office that some recovered patients of COVID-19, reportedly from Barangay Luz, Cebu City, are selling their blood at P80,000 for purposes of convalescent plasma therapy for critically-ill COVID-19 patients who need to boost their immune system.
“We have strongly advised them not to buy this blood,” said Loreche in a virtual press conference, adding that blood donations are supposed to be voluntary and not meant to be “a source of livelihood.”
Loreche recalled that commercial blood banks were ordered closed precisely for this reason.
She urged the public to report to their office anyone selling their blood.
Donate blood drive
Citing the rise in the number of COVID-19 cases and expected surge in dengue cases with the onset of the rainy season, OPAV Secretary Michael Lloyd Dino emphasized the need to have an adequate supply of blood.
“This is to ensure that patients, who might be needing blood, especially during this rainy season when dengue cases are expected to surge, can still have access to safe blood, which is an essential life-saving resource,” Dino said in a press statement.
OPAV said that in January and February this year, the top three areas in Central Visayas as far as the number of dengue cases is concerned are Cebu City (696), Lapu-Lapu City (568) and Mandaue City (286).
“Blood as a precious commodity cannot be disregarded. Our patients continue to require blood, and supply must not run out. That is why we have decided to make this launching as the first of many more mobile blood donation activities in the coming days. With your support, together, we can make a difference,” Dino said.
With the rise in the number of positive COVID-19 cases, the blood donation campaign becomes doubly important as the requirement for plasma is expected to increase, said Dino.
It can be recalled that the team of Dr. Edgar Tan at the Cebu Doctors’ University Hospital succeeded in treating critically-ill COVID-19 patients using three-step regimen: total plasma exchange, convalescent plasma therapy and blood transfusion.
“This has been dubbed as a ‘miracle in Cebu,’” Dino said.
Dino also thanked health care workers and other frontliners who risked their lives in the fight against COVID-19.
“There is really nothing we can’t overcome if we are optimistic and determined, and my only wish is that we remain united,” Secretary Dino said. “So once again to our people: Donate blood, save a life, be a hero. Together, we heal as one.”
Since the start of the pandemic, OPAV has been coming up with initiatives to address the various concerns.
These include providing free transportation to frontliners by deploying Malasakit buses and augmenting the testing capacity in the Visayas early on in the pandemic by providing PCR and automated extraction machines, extraction and detection kits, swab kits and other consumables.
OPAV has also been coordinating with the national government agencies and local government units for the setting up of quarantine and isolation facilities to prepare for the repatriation of over 2,000 overseas Filipino workers and locally stranded individual.
According to DOH, the country’s blood supply is approaching the “critical level,” thus, it urged local governments to help look for blood donors in their localities.
Health Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire said the coronavirus pandemic has limited the conduct of blood donation activities in the country.
“We are very challenged dahil alam naman natin na ang pagkuha o itong voluntary blood donation program, medyo nagkaroon tayo ng pagbaba ng nagbibigay dahil na dito sa ating hinaharap sa sitwasyon ngayon,” Vergeire said in an interview on DZMM Teleradyo Thursday.
(We are very challenged because we have seen a decrease in the number of donors in voluntary blood donation programs because of the situation right now.)
“Meron pa namang natitira. Ang sinasabi lang natin ‘yung critical level aabutin na natin but there is still supply of blood na nandyan pa sa Philippine Blood Center and other blood center in the country. Ang sa atin lang ayaw nating aabot tayo sa level na talagang walang wala na,” she added.
(There’s still supply left. What we’re saying is we are nearing the critical level but there is still supply of blood at the Philippine Blood Center and other blood centers in the country. We just do not want to reach the level where we will have no supply.)
The health official appealed to local government units to help find regular blood donors in their areas.
Danger of running out
The Philippine Red Cross earlier said the shortage of blood supply could endanger the lives of patients, including accident victims.
“Amid the ongoing COVID-19 crisis in our country, there are persons in hospitals now who are badly in need of blood transfusions like cancer patients, accident victims, people with blood disorders, mothers who are giving birth, and so many others, and with a limited supply of blood nationwide, we are in danger of running out,” Sen. Richard Gordon, PRC chairman, said last month.
In an interim guidance released in March, the World Health Organization said blood collection activities may need to be organized on a “more targeted basis” through recall of healthy repeat donors.
The COVID-19 has so far infected 50,359 people in the Philippines, with 1,314 deaths. — with Philstar.com, JMD (FREEMAN)