Rwanda is set to rollout new measures to ensure safety of blood transfusions this year.
The safety of blood transfusions in Rwanda already stands at a good quality level since the National Centre for Blood Transfusion (NCBT), holds a Level Three accreditation, the top most level that the African Society for Blood Transfusion (AFSBT) awards for quality and meeting operational requirements.
Among the safety measures currently available, the NCBT tests all blood donations for HIV 1&2, Hepatitis B and C viruses and Syphilis.
Nevertheless, there is still room for improvement, and this year, the institution is expected to add more safety measures to blood transfusion with the introduction of leukal reduction technology.
According to Dr. Swaibu Gatare, the Division Manager of National Centre for Blood Transfusion, this technology helps in removing white blood cells from the blood that transfused to patients in order to avoid Human Leukocyte Antigen Allo-immunization, a situation of adverse after-transfusion that arise as a result of incompatibility between the recipient's white blood cells and those of the donor,
"This happens especially to patients who are immunosuppressed (patients with reduced immunity) like the elderly, children, HIV/AIDS patients, and cancer patients on chemotherapy," he said.
Among other safety measures, NCBT has introduced a hemovigilance programme from 2015 on both donor and recipient sides. This monitors the effects of blood transfusions to the patients who have been transfused, or the donors themselves.
In 2016, adverse events associated to donation dropped to 46 and transfusion reactions to 20 cases. The drop in donation related adverse events was attributed to regular training given to NCBT personnel in charge of donor qualification and phlebotomy, on prevention of adverse donor events.
In 2017, NCBT introduced an online hemovigilance system that serves as an interface between hospitals and NCBT. With this system, NCBT receives real time data on transfusion reactions, transfusion records, and hospital inventory status, among others.
NCBT has also started creating Hospital Transfusion Committees (HTC) and organising regular training and meetings with committee members for critical case management.
The institution has also rolled out Apheresis technology that allows donors to give only a specific component of blood like platelets, or plasma.
Rwanda's National Centre for Blood Transfusion collects close to 80,000 units of blood currently and all donations are 100 percent free.
Speaking during a recent interview, Dr. Jeanine Condo, the Director General of Rwanda Biomedical Centre, said that some of the common recipients of blood transfusions in Rwanda are pregnant mothers who experience post-partum hemorrhage condition (bleeding after giving birth), malaria patients who delay to come to health facilities and develop anemia, cancer patients, as well as traffic accident victims.