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Project seeks electronic linking of blood banks and laboratories

Dr. Ali Al-Shammari, director of laboratories and blood banks at the Ministry of Health, said that the ministry is in the process of implementing the project of the electronic linking of blood banks in the Kingdom via the “civil registry,” or the national identity database.
The ministry will cooperate with specialized companies in this field to link 150 blood banks in the public sector in the first phase of the project. The second phase will include linking blood banks with other hospitals, Al-Shammari revealed to Al-Eqtisadiah newspaper.
The project aims to document the personal data of donors and ease the circulation of this data between the individual blood banks of the Kingdom.
“This will ease the process of tracking persons with infectious diseases and notify the concerned agency for further procedures", he said.
The absence of such links resulted in two HIV-positive blood donations at Jazan General Hospital. This is the second such incident in eight months, only this time it infected a 13-year-old girl, Riham.
According to Al-Shammari, the project will be completed within a year. He also referred to the health services that the ministry provides, which includes making available all types of medicines and drugs needed by citizens.
"I personally regret that there is a low percentage of blood donors in our country — about 40 percent — while in other countries this percentage can reach one hundred percent,” he said, arguing that there is a dire need to raise awareness about the culture of blood donation.
He explained that the ministry does not demand that cancer patients, patients with genetic blood disease and other cases to give blood donations in lieu of the blood they take.
"The ministry embarked on implementing the program in light of these grave incidents and this shall entail preparing daily reports on updates inside all hospitals of the Kingdom", he said, adding that this asserts the ministry's seriousness to address any flaws or shortages and punish any parties guilty of neglect.
Al-Shammari noted that the case of Riham has been referred to the Shariah Health Commission at the ministry.
He revealed that any donor will be subject to incubation for infectious diseases as symptoms of a particular illness can take up to 30 days to manifest. “This will be done in order to ensure the safety of administering blood to another patient,” said Al-Shammari.
Al-Shammari explained that anyone that had been fired in the wake of the Riham case cannot go back to work in the same sphere of work. "Riham will be subject to tests and analysis every six months, but we hope that the early treatment of the case and the vaccines given to her will help in the total elimination of the disease,” he added, noting that the case of Riham is the first of its kind.
Riham is still suffering from the psychological after-effects brought on by her ordeal.
An official at the National Society for Human Rights earlier said that the society followed up on the Riham case and demanded that the Ministry of Health and other health agencies ensure that all procedures and mechanisms of blood transfer operations take place to ensure such accidents do not occur again. In addition, it has issued a statement confirming its full support for the girl's family, hopping that the draft of the new HIV patient system it has prepared will be approved by the Shoura Council to ensure that all patients afflicted by this disease receive their lawful rights.

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