herald

Saturday 20 July 2019

Blood plan in place in case terror strikes

The Irish Blood Transfusion Service (IBTS) has drawn up contingency plans to import blood from Holland and the UK in the event of a catastrophic event such as a terror attack.

The service has made arrangements with transfusion services abroad for emergency back-up, in the event that the National Blood Centre (NBC) at St James's Hospital, Dublin was severely impacted by such an incident.

The threat of terrorist incidents is now taken into account in emergency plans drawn by the health services, since the 9/11 attacks in the United States.

RESPONSE

IBTS chief executive Andrew Kelly (pictured) said contingency arrangements are being constantly updated.

The business continuity plan looks at different scenarios if they were to occur, and what our response would be, he said.

This could include anything from a fire to flooding right up to a terrorist attack.

"There are different levels, from a minor incident impacting for a few hours, or for a day or longer. It depends on the circumstances," he said. "There are different levels of responses depending on the seriousness of the issue concerned."

He said that plans are devised so operational effectiveness becomes normal as soon as possible.

Under the plans, if the Dublin building was inoperable, then testing of blood would transfer to Scotland, where it would be tested for viruses and donor groupings. Those results would then be received in the Cork centre, he said.

"An agreement is in place with Scotland," Mr Kelly said.

"The big issue is how you would generate sufficient components of red cells for patients in hospitals."

Mr Kelly said that blood would be collected as normal and sent to Cork, which would operate around the clock.

In addition, robust contingency plans have been built to allow blood to be imported from Holland or England, he said.

AGREEMENT

The board has been in contact with Sanquin, the Dutch blood service, and the NHS blood and tissue service, as well as Northern Ireland.

In the event of a total disaster in Dublin, the service would operate from Cork, supported by Holland and the UK.

"They have agreed in principle to do it. What we have to do next is set up a service level agreement with them."

Mr Kelly said that the process would be tested, and units of blood would have to be flown in.

Temperature-logging devices would be included in the containers to make sure the blood was kept within temperature during the journey, he said.

fdillon@herald.ie

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