The Irish Blood Transfusion Service (IBTS) struggled for months with a down phone system unable to handle the volume of calls due to Covid-19 restrictions.
The service said its phone system was never designed to cope with such high demand, with overnight walk-in donations being replaced by an “appointment-only” system.
In meetings of its National Operations Group, the IBTS reported that it received “many, many donor complaints” from people struggling to get through even though blood supplies were dangerously low.
During the first five months of this year, the phone system was flagged as “a major problem” and at times classified as a “red risk” because donors were unable to take calls or even leave a message.
According to IBTS, the system was replaced in August, meaning the issue was finally resolved after several months of trouble.
Minutes from the National Operations Group meeting describe how precarious blood supply problems became in the first half of the year amid sickness among staff, phone problems and struggles to raise funds.
In early February, the operations group was told supplies had fallen to an average of just 3.9 days, which it described as “an extremely challenging number”.
The transcript states, “Phone concerns remain in regional areas and donors are publicly reporting that they cannot get through on the phone or leave a message.”
By the following week, care had improved to an average of 4.9 days, “which is still less than we would like,” the congregation was told.
It said “no-shows” had been a major problem at Dublin donation centers and Sunday clinics had fared poorly because of “continuing phone problems”.
In a section on blood supply forecasts, the IBTS said it was facing “knife-edge business” and that even a bad clinic could cause “problems in the future”.
The meeting was also told that getting radio coverage to promote clinics taking place in local areas would prove difficult
In early March, the IBTS said it was in a “very tense situation” with ongoing problems with the phone system and staff sickness.
At another meeting in mid-March, it was announced: “No-shows are very high at 15.3 percent, which corresponds to 330 potential donors [it was] noted that all challenges remain, phones, staff and sickness in all clinics.”
On March 22, IBTS said the week had been a “roller coaster ride,” with shares now down to a “challenging” 4.1 days on average.
A member of the team said it was “bad time to have a bad week”, with targets at a number of large clinics falling well short of expectations.
A note said: “Overall the no-shows are very high and the reasons were mainly Covid. [close] Contacts. All challenges remain.”
The IBTS had doubled its social media budget to attract donations and concerns were raised that Cheltenham and St Patrick’s Day could lead to increased cases of Covid-19.
The protocol also says: “Due to the Russia/Ukraine situation, airtime is currently very difficult.”
By the end of March, the situation deteriorated even further, with inventories falling to 3.8 days, which was described as “very grim”.
One member of the team was “somewhat upset by what is happening in hospitals, ie a reduction in electives, apparently [procedures] nevertheless a very high demand for storage”.
Deliveries fell even further in early April to an average of just 3.6 days.
“The phone system is an ongoing major concern,” the record says.
From mid-April, the pressure eased somewhat, according to the minutes released under the freedom of information framework.
A spokeswoman for IBTS said: “[Our] The collection model switched from walk-in blood donation clinics to appointment clinics practically overnight.
“Donor appointments are now all arranged by telephone. This put a significant strain on a phone system that was not designed to handle the sudden and sustained increase in call volume (over 250,000 per year).
“The system was replaced in August 2022 and these issues have been resolved.”
https://www.independent.ie/irish-news/news/faulty-phones-and-no-shows-hinder-work-of-blood-transfusion-service-42176579.html Broken phones and no-shows hamper the work of the blood transfusion service