Hong Kong Red Cross issues urgent appeal for blood donors as supplies dwindle

Amount collected much lower than usual, possibly due to factors such as bad weather, school exams and public holidays

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 04 May, 2017, 3:35pm
UPDATED : Thursday, 04 May, 2017, 11:21pm

The Red Cross has issued an urgent public appeal for blood donations in the face of a serious shortage.

The group’s Blood Transfusion Service (BTS) said that inventory had dwindled over the past few weeks and was enough to sustain only about four days of normal blood supply.

BTS chief executive and medical director Dr Lee Cheuk-kwong said in an ideal situation, there should be 10 to 11 days worth of blood stocked up to ensure any demand from hospitals for blood transfusions could be met. He added that the current level was considered serious.

BTS, managed by the Hospital Authority, is the sole public institution supplying blood to hospitals, both public and private.

One in eight Hong Kong blood donors rejected due to low iron levels, Red Cross says

“In the past, [the period from] the end of March to April has usually seen fewer donations as a result of the overlap with peak flu season, but there is usually enough of a build up of donations in early March,” Lee said. “This year, the amount collected was much lower than usual.”

About 10 per cent of new would-be donors are unfit to donate due to their low blood pressure or lack of haemoglobin, the latter a result of poor eating and living habits.

Lee said the shortage could have been aggravated in April by high blood demand at hospitals and factors such as bad weather, the number of public holidays and school examinations.

The service needs to collect about 1,100 bags of blood daily to supply roughly 800 bags to the city’s hospitals. Just before the recent string of public holidays, it was collecting as few as 600 to 700 a day.

“The BTS appeals to eligible citizens to come forward to donate blood in the coming two weeks or as soon as possible to increase blood inventories in order to satisfy the blood demand from hospitals to treat chronically and critically ill patients in need of transfusion,” a BTS spokesman said through a statement issued by the Hospital Authority on Thursday.

In Hong Kong, 32 out of every 1,000 residents donate blood, compared to 33.1 per 1,000 in high-income countries, according to the World Health Organisation.