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Healthcare
Friday, February 1, 2002
In the right vein

The year-end exams, the long Christmas holidays, and the slow three-week business return to work in January all combine to make the season a slack period for blood donations. Once again, most of the country is “in crisis” as a result with only two days’ supply available. Things will be getting back to normal, but the country is always in short supply, so contact the SA National Blood Service if you have a mind to help (see details below).

Even though you donate your blood free, it is an expensive process. The Blood Service currently charges hospitals (both private and provincial) R450 a unit — although it actually costs the service R464 to collect (see table).
However, current donors may not be aware of the fact that they do not have to pay for blood should they require a transfusion. This will apply to persons who are not members of a medical aid, or whose medical aid limit has been reached.
In terms of the Human Tissue Act 1983 (as amended 1984 and 1989), a prescribed institution or person may receive any payment in respect of the import or acquisition for or the supply to another person of blood or a blood product, and any such payment which has been received, shall be refundable to the person who made it.
A ‘current donor’ is defined as a person who has donated at least 3 units in his or her lifetime, of which at least one unit must have been donated within the last 12 months. Persons ‘retired’ for medical reasons from donating by the Service remain classified as current donors. Such persons and their direct dependants (spouse and children) will be refunded for units received in transfusion. In certain cases, parents and close relatives of the donor may also be classed as dependants.
No matter who receives blood an account is sent from the Blood Service, and must be paid for through the normal medical accounting system. Eligible current donors may then apply to the Blood Service for a refund.

Healthy person

A healthy person can safely donate a unit of blood (450ml) up to six times a year. After each donation it takes approximately 36 hours for the body to reconstitute the fluid volume and about 21 days for the blood cell count to return to a normal level.


Red blood cells (also called erythrocytes), which live for about 120 days, carry the oxygen to the body in haemoglobin (via the arteries), and return with carbon dioxide (via the veins). Every time the heart beats, about 20% of the output goes directly to the brain, which can face catastrophic failure if supply is disrupted even for a short period. The blood travels around the body along approximately 150 000 kms of veins, arteries and capillaries. These last are the thin and permeable connective blood vessels that allow for a constant interchange of nutrients and waste products, and enable the exchange of oxygen and carbon dioxide.
Between 55%-60% of the blood is plasma and this contains the white cells (also called leucocytes), antibodies, clotting factors and the platelets (called thrombocytes), which promote clotting. For example, when the body is wounded blood exposed to the air will clot to reduce and (hopefully) stop any bleeding. The white blood cells defend the body against infections and live for up to nine days.
The SA National Blood Service stipulates that persons wishing to give blood must weigh a minimum of 50kgs. In some cases individuals may donate their plasma only; and this is harvested by removing the whole blood and returning the red blood cells to the body after extraction of the plasma. This is used for restoring blood volume; and provides clotting factors 8 and 9 for treatment of haemophilia. It also contains antibodies, such as Hepatitis B, and aids in the production of immunoglobulin for protection against diseases by boosting the immune system. Finally, it contains albumen, which also restores volume and helps in the treatment of burns.

To contact the SA National Blood Service call your nearest regional number: (011) 761 9000 —  (021) 507 6300 — (031) 719 6500 — (041) 391 8200 — (043) 704 8200; also toll free: (0800) 119 031. email: bloodinfo@ecr.sanbs.org.za

Copyright © Insurance Times and Investments® Vol:15.1 1st February, 2002
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