India has almost 3,000 blood centres collecting more than 11 million units annually. Maintaining blood supply during the COVID-19 pandemic is a huge challenge. We conducted a cross-sectional study by an online survey to analyse the variation of practices across blood centers of India during this pandemic. A total of 196 blood centers completely responded to the online survey. Most of the blood centres who responded were part of Government hospitals (60 %), part of an academic institutes (55.6 %) and were directly supporting a COVID hospital (67.5 %). Almost 95.4 % blood centers reported reduction of blood donation mainly due to lockdown (50 %) and inability to conduct camps (17.3 %). Scheduling blood donations was one of the most difficult to implement strategy for maintaining adequate blood donation (40.2 %). Blood center manpower management was also a challenge and upto 48 % blood centers operated in two batches to ensure social distancing in blood banks and reduce the risk of exposure. Hemato-oncology (36.8 %) and obstetrics (33.7 %) were major utilizer of blood during the pandemic. There were marked variations in use of PPE by blood banks staff as well as strategies adopted while conducting immunohematology tests on COVID-19 positive patients samples. This pandemic has highlighted some of the major limitations of the health services but blood services have risen to the challenge and strived to maintain the blood supply chain while ensuring blood donor and staff safety. The wide variations in the practices adopted highlights the need for uniform guidelines for blood services in future pandemics.
Keywords: Blood banks in pandemic; COVID-19; COVID-19 pandemic; Transfusion services.
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