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12 May 2021

11th May 2021

Name and Constituency of Member of Parliament
Dr Lim Wee Kiak
MP for Sembawang GRC

Question No. 835


To ask the Minister for Health (a) how has the COVID-19 pandemic affected blood and organ donations; and (b) how are hospitals reviewing their processes to ensure blood and organ donations and transplants are safe for patients and donors amidst the pandemic.

Answer

1 Blood and organ donations are essential services and had continued during the COVID-19 pandemic.

2 Data from the Health Sciences Authority (HSA) showed that there were about 117,000 blood units collected in 2020, an increase of about 500 units from 2019[1].  Even though there was a fall in the total number of donors who donated blood in 2020, this was made up by more frequent donations from the regular blood donors.  There were also more new donors who donated for the first time in 2020. 

3 All blood donors must undergo medical screening to ensure the safety of blood supplied to patients.  With the on-going COVID-19 pandemic, additional measures beyond medical screening have been introduced to further reduce the risk of donated blood carrying the SARS-COV2 virus responsible for COVID-19 infection.  These measures include requiring all blood donors to undergo pre-screening for respiratory symptoms, travel history and contact history with COVID-19 cases.  Blood donors are also reminded to inform the blood bank immediately if they feel unwell in the first two weeks after donation.  To ensure the safety of donors, blood banks have also implemented safe management measures and increased the frequency of cleaning of blood banks. 

4 There were 294 deceased and living donor organ transplantations (kidney, liver, heart, cornea, lung and pancreas) carried out last year[2].  This number was much lower compared to the total of 488 transplants for these organs in 2019.   This lower number could be attributed to the deferment of some of these surgeries to enable the hospitals to scale up their operations to manage the demands of the COVID-19 pandemic.  The donor selection criteria were also tightened to reduce the risk of COVID-19 transmission from donors, which may have led to a decrease in graft availability.  However, urgent transplantation continued to be performed where medically appropriate.  

5 With the on-going COVID-19 pandemic, potential organ donors are screened and excluded should they have any respiratory symptoms, travel history, or contact history with COVID-19 cases.  Pre-transplant testing to rule out COVID-19 infection is also conducted for donors and recipients.  Hospital staff are required to adhere to strict safe distancing, infection prevention and control measures, as well as to use appropriate Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) when coordinating and conducting organ transplantation activities.   MOH and the National Organ Transplant Unit (NOTU) will review the screening and testing criteria for donors and recipients regularly, with inputs from infectious diseases experts and evidence-based guidelines, to ensure safety for our transplant patients.



[1]  Number of blood collections from 2016-2020: 2016 (115,976), 2017 (116,128), 2018 (115,826), 2019 (116,789), 2020 (117,272). Data source: Health Sciences Authority (HSA)
[2]  Data is for Singapore Citizens and Permanent Residents.