Hong Kong Red Cross overloaded by surge in blood donors after appeal, with waiting times of more than three hours

Those who want to donate blood are advised to find time in between or after work on weekdays

PUBLISHED : Monday, 08 May, 2017, 8:03am
UPDATED : Monday, 08 May, 2017, 8:03am

Red Cross Hong Kong has appealed to people to visit its centres more often after work or during lunch time on weekdays after an urgent call for donations last Thursday resulted in an influx of would-be donors, leading to waiting times of up to 3.5 hours.

Over the weekend, staff members at Red Cross centres were overwhelmed by droves of visitors showing up to donate blood, after the organisation made an appeal stating that its inventory could only sustain only about four days of normal supply to hospitals.

Donor numbers reportedly reached 1,300 in a day, almost double the average amount.

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But the surge overloaded staff and equipment, with a popular Red Cross donor centre in Mong Kok having to put up a notice on Sunday afternoon warning of waiting times of at least 2.5 hours for the well-intentioned.

On Saturday, the waiting time at the same location was reportedly 3.5 hours.

A would-be donor at the Mong Kok centre, who showed up to answer the Red Cross appeal, said: “I almost wanted to leave after seeing so many people here.”

Director of Red Cross Hong Kong, Jimmy Yuen Hon-wing, said he was thankful for the public’s support.

But he said it would be better if donors could set aside time to donate blood after work or during lunch hours on weekdays.

“After an urgent appeal, there will be a sudden surge of donors. But it cannot solve the [long-term] issue. There is a need to coordinate resources and there is also a limit to how long the blood can be stored,” Yuen said on Sunday.

Yuen said Red Cross would consider adjusting the opening hours of its donor centres to make it easier for people to donate blood.

There is a need to coordinate resources and there is also a limit to how long the blood can be stored
Jimmy Yuen Hon-wing, Director of Red Cross Hong Kong

Secretary for Food and Health Dr Ko Wing-man echoed Yuen’s views, adding: “There is a need for a steady blood supply 365 days a year. Being able to collect a huge amount of blood in a short period of time will not sustain the supply for a whole year.”

Red Cross needs to collect about 1,100 bags of blood a day to ensure sufficient supply to the city’s hospitals.

In Hong Kong, 32 out of every 1,000 citizens donate blood – slightly under the median blood donation rate in high-income countries, which is 33.1 donations per 1,000 people, according to the World Health Organisation.

The Red Cross blood transfusion service has been managed by the Hospital Authority since late 1991. It is the only public institution providing blood to all hospitals in Hong Kong.

Earlier last year, there were rumours that the Red Cross would provide blood to mainland hospitals, sparking a call for boycott by some local internet users.