Health officials in T&T are working to establish a voluntary blood donation system which will replace the current ‘chit system’ and result in patients receiving blood when they need it.

Speaking during Saturday’s COVID-19 briefing, Health Minister Terrence Deyalsingh said the ministry had already set up a National Altruistic Totally Voluntary Non-Remunerated Blood Donation Programme which was in direct contrast to the chit system which prevails now.

Deyalsingh said it would also entail a complete re-education of the public about voluntary blood donation. The minister said, “You should not be giving blood and expect something in return for it.”

He estimated this process would take a minimum of two years, with a maximum of three to five years to get it to where it needs to be.

Deyalsingh said he was aware of a shortage of blood in Tobago which he attributed to them not embarking on the voluntary blood drive they usually do.

He said on Friday the authorities in Tobago had conducted a successful voluntary blood drive.

Deyalsingh also said the North West Regional Health Authority had started voluntary blood drives tio boost its database.

Between January 2019 to July 2019, a total of 11,228 pints of blood were collected, while 11,007 pints of blood were collected during the same period this year.

The minister said COVID-19 had not adversely impacted the numbers of pints of blood collected during the period from January to July 2020.

Meanwhile, the position for head of the National Blood Transfusion Centre remains vacant. Deyalsingh said an individual has been interviewed and an offer extended.

He said, “Once that person is installed, his or her mandate under the new policy at the MOH is finally, to convert this country from the current chit/remunerated system to a totally voluntary altruistic non-remunerated system of blood donation.”