SA’s transfusion training centre

New South African Transfusion Medicine
Training Centre, key to the fight against
HIV/AIDS in South Africa.
(Image: Nosimilo Ramela)

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• Justice Mohale
South African national Blood Service
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Nosimilo Ramela

A transfusion medicine training centre has been set up in Johannesburg, South Africa to ensure South Africans receive HIV-safe supply of blood.

Funded by the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) of the US the South African National Blood Service (SANBS) and the Western Province Blood Transfusion Service (WPBTS) have established the modern Transfusion Medicine Training Centre (TMTC).

The training centre was officially opened by the South African health minister, Dr Aaron Motsoaledi, at the SANBS Headquarters on 22 February.  

Speaking at the opening, Motsoaledi said, “The issue of blood safety in our country is an important component of our fight to defeat the scourge of HIV/AIDS in our communities.”

The centre, the first state-of-the-art facility of its kind in Africa  will train blood-nursing staff in donor selection education, recruitment, and retention. It will also train blood banking and transfusion medicine practitioners in regulatory framework, risk management, quality assurance, standard operating procedures, systems for documentation of donations, and the information and communication technologies (ICTs) aspects of transfusion medicine.

“Education and training is fundamental to every aspect of blood safety as well as successful utilisation of blood and blood products in saving lives,” said Motsoaledi. He said few healthcare providers receive advance training on transfusion medicine during their formal medical or nursing education. “This lack of training sometimes results in avoidable death and complications of the use of blood and blood products.”

The centre has lecture rooms, video conferencing facilities, training laboratories for technical and donor training, and a computer-training centre. The facility will enable the linkage of the two blood services (SANBS and WPBTS) to share e-Learning and distance learning educational materials and programmes. It will also provide training related to blood banking and transfusion to staff members of the blood services and health organisations of other African countries.

“The centre will enable health professionals across the country and the Southern Africa region to share knowledge and expertise in various aspects of blood transfusion. We believe that this sharing of expertise and aiding with training programmes for African countries may well be the most important contribution that South Africa can make to improve the quality of blood banking and transfusion services in Africa,” said Motsoaledi.

Changing with the times

The world of blood banking and transfusion medicine is continually changing as new technology evolves to further reduce risks associated with the use of blood and blood products.

The technology of the e-Learning Solution acquired for the centre makes it possible to implement a web-based e-learning and distance learning programme to blood transfusion staff located anywhere in South Africa or in the Southern Africa region.
The TMTC Network will be composed of a hub-and-spokes system with central and satellite sites. The hub will be located in Johannesburg and Cape Town with spoke (satellite) sites located in each of the provincial zones.

The SANBS and WPBTS transfusion education and training programme is also collaboratiing with partners in the national and provincial departments of health, academic institutions, healthcare, and biotechnology industries at the national and international levels.

The initiative was approved by the national department of health as part of its HIV/AIDS National Strategic Plan.

Blood safety

According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), education and training is fundamental to every aspect of blood safety. However evidence from the WHO Global Database on Blood Safety 1998 – 1999 indicates that 72% of countries are unable to meet their identified training needs, even though many of the factors threatening the safety of the global blood supply can be attributed to inadequate training.

This is due to limited budgets, inadequate facilities and insufficient numbers of experienced trainers. This makes it impossible to meet the training needs of large numbers of staff who may be scattered over wide geographical areas.

Recognising the practical constraints facing countries that wish to expand their training programmes but do not have the resources or facilities to do so by conventional means, the WHO Blood Transfusion Safety team has included distance learning as a key element in its strategy to support national training initiatives.

WHO has done this to support training in blood safety because it offers blood transfusion services a cost effective way of expanding their training activities when resources and facilities are limited.