Minister of Health (left), Dr. Jerome Walcott, cuts the ribbon to officially declare open the new facility at Ladymeade Gardens for the Blood Collecting Centre. Looking on are Chief Executive Officer of the Queen Elizabeth Hospital (QEH), Winston Collymore (left;) and Head of Pathology at the QEH, Dr. Delores Lewis.

Those altruistic members of the public, who perform the vital life-saving act of voluntarily donating blood to the Queen Elizabeth Hospital’s (QEH), will now be doing so in more pleasant and congenial surroundings.

The unsung heroes’ regular humanitarian gesture often provides a virtual lifeline for many patients, some of whom are on their last legs. From this month, however, they will be accommodated in spacious facilities, just a stone’s throw away from the QEH. 

Thanks to renovation efforts, spearheaded by the Barbados Community Foundation (BCF) and supported by private and public sector entities, a once abandoned and derelict building at Ladymeade Gardens has given way to a modern, aesthetically pleasing facility, after just two months of renovations and the injection of some $175,000.

The new five-bed Blood Collecting Centre offers many benefits over its predecessor. These include being housed in a separate building which lends to greater visibility of the facility and optimum utilisation of resources, as well as better parking for donors.

Additionally, since it is located at ground level this contributes to greater accessibility and its larger floor space provides a bigger client processing area, with two interviewing rooms and four blood donation couches (“bleeding couches”). There is also more privacy for clients and a faster client processing time. The new facility can easily accommodate 25 to 30 donors on a daily basis.
It also affords its own staff much improved accommodation.   

The establishment of a formal Blood Collecting Centre in Barbados dates back to about 1966, some two and a half years after the Queen Elizabeth Hospital (QEH) was opened.  Originally housed on the second floor of the QEH compound, it started out with a staff complement of just two persons.

Staff Nurse Wendy Lorde, carrying out phlebotomy (the taking of blood) on Dr. Terry Meek, a donor of over 30 years with the Blood Collecting Centre of the Queen Elizabeth Hospital, who has voluntarily donated some 100 units over that time.

During the decades that followed, as services offered by the hospital expanded and became more complex, there was an increased need for space within the main compound. This led to the Centre being relocated to a small building that annexed the car park, near to the Accident and Emergency Department. Since this building was not purpose-built, several challenges were encountered, the major one being the inadequacy of space to accommodate donors.    

In October 1999, the Blood Collecting Centre was again relocated, this time to a section of the second floor of the Lions Eye Care Centre (within the precincts of the QEH).  While this was a significant improvement over the previous situation, conditions still proved to be somewhat less than ideal. There were constraints of limited client processing space that contributed to longer waiting periods for donors.

Along with this, the common waiting room (that was shared with other clinics) created the impression that the waiting period was significantly longer than it was, and proved to be a major disincentive, particularly to new potential donors. Prospective donors would take one look at the waiting area and decide that they could wait no longer.

Other concerns included the lack of visibility of the Centre and the competition for parking faced by clients. 

Recognising the need for an enhanced Blood Donation Centre, the BCF decided to facilitate the project. Along with staff of the QEH, members of the foundation identified the building at Ladymeade as an ideal site for the new Centre.  The building was restored and adapted to meet the needs of a modern Blood Donating Centre.  

Minister of Health, Jerome Walcott, while officially opening the facility on October 17, noted that the involvement of the BCF fitted well with the recommendations of the World Health Organisation (WHO) with respect to the management of Blood Donation Centres. WHO had long identified partnerships with non-government organisations and community-based organisations as key to the success of such activities.  

He added too that it was consistent with the experiences of other countries, including Canada and the United States of America, where it was found that the involvement of the non-government sector was indispensable to the maintenance of voluntary blood donation responses.   

he BCF, a charitable organisation which sources funds for needy organisations, was able to garner significant financial assistance for the project from a number of private sector partners including Barbados Shipping and Trading and the Barbados Public Workers Cooperative Credit Union.

While lauding the organisation’s work, the Health Minister said: “It is heartening to witness the culmination of this collaborative effort, particularly at this time, since we recognise that now more than ever, there must be greater engagement of all sectors of society in collaboration with the Ministry of Health, if we are to further or even sustain the health gains that we have made over the past five decades.” 

The role of the Blood Collection Centre is to sustain the blood requirements of the QEH, which on a daily basis could approximate to some 40 units of each blood group (O+, O- , A+, A-, B+, B-, AB+, and AB-).  

There is no substitute for human blood and “A Gift of Blood is A Gift of Life!” To ensure that this vital life-fluid is safe, sufficient and reliably supplied, the blood donation experience must of necessity be made pleasant.

The capacity of the QEH to attain the twin objectives of donor comfort and increased participation in blood donation will undoubtedly be enhanced through the more spacious and attractive facilities now in place at the Blood Collection Centre at Ladymeade Gardens.

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