Although not strictly a trucking story, the services of the SANBS are vital to all road users. Blood donation services are only one part of the services offered. Now the South African National Blood Service (SANBS) has invested in four specialised vehicles to improve its mobile clinical service to critically ill patients suffering from various life threatening blood-related diseases.
The vehicles will be used to transport teams of specialised nurses based in Johannesburg and Pretoria to various academic and regional hospitals in all eight of the provinces that SANBS services. A team that will be based in KwaZulu-Natal is currently being developed.
The SANBS nursing teams are trained to operate machines called cell separator platforms which are used to perform life-saving procedures for critically ill patients whose clinicians activate the service from major hospitals.
In a process called apheresis, the machine draws blood from a patient, separates it into its different components and removes the pathogenic components before reinfusing the remaining non-diseased components back into the patient.
For 19 years this state of the art technology was at risk of having its performance compromised while in transit before the adoption of the vehicles. From now on, the safety and reliability of the machines will be enhanced.
“The vehicles are ergonomically designed to minimise vibration damage which could be caused by traveling on our roads most of which have uneven surfaces. Our country also has a humid climate in areas such as KwaZulu Natal which could decrease the quality of the equipment,” says SANBS medical director Dr Charlotte Ingram.
The vehicles will also soon be modified with uninterruptible power supply (UPS) apparatus which will act as a back-up of electricity in case of power shortage should the various hospitals experience power shortages.
On average, the process takes four hours and could be the difference between life and death especially for HIV positive patients who are not on ARV treatment and develop various blood diseases.
Thrombotic thrombocytopaenic purpura (TTP) is a disease that is typically rare in other countries but more common in South Africa because of its association with HIV which is still very prevalent in the country.
The disease is life-threatening but patient outcome has dramatically improved through plasma exchange performed by the cell separator platform.
Although 60% of the procedures performed through the mobile clinical offering are for treating HIV-related blood diseases, through this facility SANBS can assist with facilitating stem cell donation and transplantation for cancer patients.
“SANBS is helping to fill a big gap along the stem cell transplant process by ensuring that our service is sufficient, affordable, and accessible across South Africa and of great quality. This assists haematologists with managing their patients and increasing their life expectancy,” says Dr Ingram.
Input from the specialist SANBS nurses was used to inform the design process of the vehicles because the development will not only benefit patients.
Dr Ingram: “The working conditions of the nurses who are out on the field saving lives everyday will be improved dramatically and this can only mean that we will be able to offer an even higher standard of service to all our patients.”