Senehasa Blood Bank

The new Senehasa Blood Bank opened at Karapitiya Hospital on 14 July 2008 and it will serve hospitals in the Southern Province as a part of Sri Lanka’s National Transfusion Service. It will provide essential blood products for all types or surgery, treatment of critical illnesses including cancer, and accident and emergency cases.

The old facilities were not only cramped and outdated, but since the Tsunami the blood bank at Karapitiya had taken on the work of other blood banks in coastal hospitals. It was literally bursting at the seams. The unit had skilled and experienced doctors, nurses and medical technicians but needed a new building and equipment.

With the agreement of the Health Ministry, Senehasa started building the new facility in January 2008. The building was completed within six months. Equipment such as a platelet agitator, a 12 bucket centrifuge, bench centrifuges and binocular microscopes were imported for the unit. Specialist fridges and freezers including a plasma freezer and extractor were also installed. A special lab has been built to screen for malaria.

Blood products were issued from freezers in a corridor in the old blood bank. Now there is a dedicated room with external access for collection. Donors have a reception area, a counselling room for privacy and a spacious and clean ward for blood collection and recovery. There are rest facilities for the staff running this 24 hour facility and there are separate labs for screening and processing blood products. Products are now stored in controlled areas.

The sister-in-charge is so thrilled to work in the new blood bank. She explains, “It is like heaven to work here now. It means so much to us. We can do so much more.”

One of the biggest benefits has been the increase in capacity. Blood collections went up by 30% in the first month and blood issues for medical treatment went up by 40%. The improved facilities have encouraged new and returning donors to come more frequently.

When there was an emergency in the past, donors rushed to give blood but the nurses had to turn them away. Patient safety was severely compromised by the hospital’s lack of capacity. “Over 40 people were seriously injured in a crash, involving a bus and a lorry. We had the skills and experience to deal with such emergencies but we didn’t have the facilities to cope with the demand for blood products for so many people at once. It was so frustrating to know that prompt treatment would have saved lives. Now we will be able to deal with critical incidences like this.” says Dr Welivitiya.

The new blood bank now deals with more donors and processes the blood collected quickly and efficiently. The blood products can be stored in temperature controlled areas for longer periods. Simply put, the new blood bank will save lives.

Initial impression of old Blood bank facilities

Visiting the old Karapitiya blood bank was a truly shocking experience. Bloodstocks lie in freezers in the corridors; cardboard boxes full of blood bags are stacked outside the unit; blood is issued in the corridor. Under such dire conditions, the experienced and committed team do an astonishing job maintaining the quality of the blood products they supply.

The Karapitiya Blood Bank serves three other hospitals, since some of the facilities in those areas were damaged by the Tsunami. All blood collected at these locations is sent to Karapitiya for processing, as is the blood collected by mobile units. The unit had 12,500 donors last year and supplies more than 900 units each month, but the facilities could barely cope with the dramatic increase in volumes.

A new, better-equipped building was essential to protect the quality of blood supplies in the Galle District. Facilities are needed for proper storage, production, donors, administration, and the issue of blood products, as well as for the staff who run this 24-hour service.