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Washington D.C. 19 March 2019 (PAHO/WHO) – The Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) organized a Caribbean-node meeting to discuss progress of the Regional Action Plan for Universal Access to Safe Blood 2014-2019 with representatives of national blood programs and services from countries and territories in the Caribbean. The session took place in PAHO Headquartes, Washington D.C., from 18-19 March 2019.

“The Caribbean countries and territories have high percentages of repeat volunteer donors, which is essential for guaranteeing safety, quality and availability of blood and blood products,” said James Fitzgerald, Director of PAHO’s Department of Health Systems and Services, during the opening remarks. “However, challenges remain to achieve 100% repeat voluntary donation in many countries,” he added.

The aim of the meeting was to analyze the progress made by the countries of the Caribbean to achieve the goals of the regional plan, and share experiences to improve future progress.

The regional plan seeks to promote universal access to safe blood, based on unpaid voluntary altruistic donation, in a timely manner to help save lives and improve the health conditions of patients who need it, by integrating blood systems into the health system of the country. 

This plan also advocates the proper use of blood and the strengthening of the governing capacity of the health authority, exhorting it to implement quality management programs in the transfusion chain (from the promotion of donation, to the follow-up of the patient), including 100% screening to detect infectious agents and implement health surveillance, hemovigilance, risk management, monitoring, and evaluation.

Participants reviewed the status of the indicators of the regional plan, and prioritized actions for 2019-2020 in blood programs of the Caribbean Region, and potential PAHO technical cooperation. They also discussed regional priorities for a new strategic plan.

Some of the main priorities identified during the meeting refer to ensuring quality and safety of blood and blood products through the adoption of Standards for Blood Banks (including quality external evaluation, information systems and hemovigilance), transfusion committees (including approaches such as Patient Blood Management and the adoption of guidelines for the clinical use of blood), the transition from replacement donation to voluntary repeat donation, risk management plans (including contingency plans and mechanisms to integrate the network of blood services among Caribbean countries and territories before, during and after disasters and emergencies), the strengthening of human resources through capacity building, and the assessment of blood systems at the National Level.

Heads and coordinators of national blood programs and services from Anguilla, Bahamas, Barbados, Belize, Bermuda, Cayman Islands, Curacao, Dominica, Grenada, Guyana, Haiti, Jamaica, St. Kitts and Nevis, St. Lucia, St. Vincent and the Grenadines, Turks and Caicos Islands, attended the meeting.

The Plan of Action for Universal Access to Safe Blood 2014-2019 was approved in 2014, during the 53rd Directing Council of the Pan American Health Organization, which was held on September 29 to October 3 in Washington, D.C.