|With Ramadhan around the corner, the Jakarta branch of the Indonesian Red Cross (PMI) has been pulling out all the stops to secure an adequate blood supply ahead of the annual Islamic holy month, which is estimated to commence on June 18.
The organization is currently able to gather around 700 to 1,000 bags of blood per day to meet the demand of around 48 hospital blood banks. Each bank requires about 200 bags per day, according to Jakarta’s PMI information and technology unit head Muhamad Muchtar.
“Besides the blood banks, we also serve 266 hospitals in the Jakarta area,” he said on Friday, in conjunction with World Red Cross and Red Crescent Day, which falls every May 8.
Jakarta’s PMI blood transfusion unit director, Dr. Salimar Salim, said that during Ramadhan, the blood supply could drop by up to 70 percent.
“We usually only collect around 300 bags,” she said on Friday.
There is always a blood shortage during the fasting month as it is widely perceived that donating blood invalidates the fast and weakens the human body, according to the PMI.
Muchtar, however, said that the Indonesian Ulema Council (MUI) issued a ruling in 2000 stating that donating blood during Ramadhan did not invalidate the fast and that the act was considered noble.
Salimar added that from the health aspect, donating blood while fasting did not make people weak. “It’s just a myth,” she said.
To secure the blood stockpile, Jakarta’s PMI has planned several actions.
“Two weeks prior to the start Ramadhan we will approach institutions and organizations that usually donate lots of blood,” she said. “We will also cooperate with the Indonesian Military [TNI], National Police and churches to have their officers and congregations donate blood,” Salimar said.
She added that the organization would also open a blood donation booth at Cempaka Mas shopping mall in Central Jakarta and Mangga Dua Square shopping mall in North Jakarta.
“We will open the booths starting the second week of Ramadhan from 10 a.m. until 4 p.m. daily. Last year we were only able to collect 20 to 40 bags daily. The number was small but holding the event again is worth a try,” she said.
The PMI will also send letters to hospitals two days prior to the start of Ramadhan asking patients’ families to prepare blood donors in case of blood depletion.
Salimar said that due to the expiration period of blood components, the Red Cross could not keep a big stockpile.
The PMI does not sell blood donated by donors and only charge blood treatment costs.
“The cost covers blood screening for four diseases, which are Hepatitis B and C, syphilis and HIV, storage costs and blood bags,” she said, adding that the cost charged to each patient was Rp360,000 (US$27.42) per bag. (prm)
“Besides the blood banks, we also serve 266 hospitals in the Jakarta area.”
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