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Interview with Olga Valerievna Eichler

The Blood Service has been at front of the fight against coronavirus infection in 2020. The selfless work of doctors in clinics, the saving of patients - all this would be impossible without timely provision of medical institutions with donated blood. To achieve a common goal, it was required to restructure the work of the entire Blood Service in the shortest possible time, to find quick and effective solutions. Olga Valerievna Eichler, Head of the Department of Medical Support for Conversion and Extreme Work and the Blood Service of the FMBA of Russia, spoke about how the work was organized in this difficult time.

The 2020 year was a test of strength for the Blood Service. What challenges did you face in 2020?

The main challenge both for Russia and for the whole world was the pandemic of the new coronavirus infection. Of course, this circumstance affected the Blood Service. The blood service is a separate health care system that provides patients with donated blood and its components throughout the country and maintains the proper amount of components for clinical use. Therefore, for us, being in self-isolation has become a real test. Many active and potential donors - students, home- based workers - could not leave their homes. At the same time, requests for blood and its components from medical institutions did not stop. Those institutions redeveloped into hospitals for COVID-19 patients worked with severe patients with concomitant diseases, and in many cases, blood components were required. We were in desperate need of new solutions. Of course, it was necessary to modify the work due to the prohibitions on organizing outdoor activities in labor collectives. The practice of regions that did not use large-scale fieldwork, but were successfully engaged in receiving donors in stationary conditions, was chosen as the basis for entrepreneurial decisions. Also, the procurement of those blood components that were most in-demand during the pandemic was increased, and the procurement of other components was reduced.

What issues and aspects of donation of blood and its components in 2020 required increased attention?

The most important thing in the first weeks of the pandemic was to reorganize the donor activity during the lockdown. The blood service has decided to use taxi operators and other forms of donor delivery to medical institutions. Besides, the Blood Service urged the doctors themselves to donate blood more actively, and our colleagues met halfway, providing enormous help. Many institutions have changed working hours to receive donors at a convenient time for them. Also, mobile teams made targeted visits to institutions with strict observance of sanitary and epidemiological standards. Throughout the work, from the first days of 2020, issues of the safe stay of donors in the institution were in the area of increased attention. For many years, the blood service has been using air disinfectants, recording formats for donation have been introduced to maximize separation, incoming control of donors' well-being is carried out. Therefore, the established additional requirements in the form of thermometry and mask regime did not complicate the work in any way and only contributed to the preservation of the health of donors.

How did the statistics on blood donation change in 2020 compare to 2019? What are the points of decline in 2020?

The volume of donated blood decreased in April and May - during the period of the most stringent restrictions. We quickly managed the situation, primarily due to stocks and technologies for long-term storage of components. The blood supply has decreased slightly, which does honor to the Blood Service. For example, in European countries, the situation with the decline in donor activity was felt much more acute.

Platelet concentrate was at the peak of demand, its procurement and delivery in 2020 even increased compared to 2019. And, of course, the new task to the Blood Service should be mention - the preparation of anti-COVID plasma from people who have recovered and who have antibodies. We got involved in the work immediately, initiated scientific research, and developed a method for the preparation of this blood component. This experience is truly unique. Today, the main efforts are directed to the development of a specific immunoglobulin that can successfully fight the coronavirus.

One of the challenges of 2020 was the task of attracting and informing blood donors during the period of self-isolation. How did you manage to solve this problem?

Promotion activities were carried out in all communication channels. The student community, traditionally the most active part of the donor movement, played an important role. They immediately joined the work, and in their messengers, on social networks, told how in the new conditions to donate blood, save people's lives, providing additional information support to blood service institutions in the regions.

The cancellation of outdoor events during the period of self-isolation has become a serious problem. How did you manage to keep stocks of essential blood components?

Thanks to smart logistics and the principle of mutual assistance. Regions with a shortage of components received timely assistance from neighboring regions with no deficit. The blood service is an example of one of the most friendly and close-knit institutions, where specialists communicate with each other constantly. This well-established interaction helps in the provision of methodological and organizational assistance. Now colleagues are actively sharing their experience in organizing the preparation of anti-COVID plasma, motivational work with the donors.

The experience of the self-isolation period - what was it like for the Blood Service?

It was a tough time for everyone, but the Blood Service got through. New and interesting work formats were opened. The specialists showed themselves from the very best side - as professionals, ready to solve the most difficult problems.

And our traditional question: what would you wish to donors and people, who are going to join the donor program?

I would like to wish everyone, not only donors, health since this is the most valuable, the most precious thing we have. I urge active donors and those who are just going to become a donor not to be afraid to come to blood service institutions. Give good and remain donors!

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