Patients in need of blood are receiving quicker treatment following an MTN Uganda donation of the automated blood component extractor to Uganda Blood Transfusion services (UBTS) which mines components faster.

Prior to the donation, UBTS used manual methods of blood component extraction which took about 30 minutes to extract samples from about ten samples compared to the one minute using the automated machine.

The process, Otekat says was slow leading to equally tortoise-paced service provision to hospitals and patients in need of blood components for treatment especially those in regional areas.

However, Ms Grace Otekat head of laboratories UBTS says the machine has now enabled the blood bank improve component extraction which is critical to the treatment of accident and cancer patients.

“Because of existence of the extractor, the number of components has increased. We can now extract 48 platelets from the 24 we used to get so now we have enough platelets. Because of presence of the machine, when other centres like Masaka, Mbarara request for extracts, we have enough to distribute to all of them,” she says.

Aside from Gulu and Mbale which have their own centrifuge; the machine used to separate the components of blood, UBTS supplies blood extracts to all other government hospitals countrywide.

According to Ms Otekat, UBTS supplies over 400 hospitals with blood components countrywide.

In July 2019, MTN, through the MTN Foundation donated UGX. 347 million for the purchase of the automatic blood plasma extractor machine along with three refrigerators to three regional blood banks.

The move was envisaged to improve blood processing and blood storage since fridges at some of the regional blood banks were old and characterised by frequent breakdowns.

For instance at Arua regional blood bank, breakdowns could happen as frequently as two to three times a month risking destruction of the blood.

Relieved Mbale regional hospital said challenges relating to storage are now addressed.

Similarly, UBTS has now doubled the number of components supplied to different hospitals culminating into increased availability and delivery to patients.

In addition, it has led to efficiency in blood extraction since more components are mined compared to the manual method where they used the naked eye.

Mr. Bryan Mbasa, the Senior Manager, MTN Foundation says MTN is proud to have been part of a process that has seen service delivery transform for the better around different hospitals of the country.

“We are glad to have contributed to the reform which has led to saving of more lives of different people in Uganda. As MTN, we prioritize the lives of not only our staff but also strive to improve the health conditions in the country at large,” he says.

He also applauded UBTS for its pivotal role in safeguarding human life in Uganda.

Why blood components are important

From blood, different components are extracted including plasma and platelets.

Plasma is used to make a range of essential pharmaceutical products, such as those used to treat people with immune deficiencies or bleeding disorders.

According to Red Cross, Platelets give cancer patients the strength they need to keep fighting.

A major side effect of treatment for cancer patients is low platelet count which without a platelet transfusion can lead to life-threatening bleeding because platelets help blood to clot.

Platelets also help patients survive major surgeries or serious injuries for example accidents since they help in blood clotting.

Platelets give strength to patients with blood disorders and those with transplants.