Blood plant aims to ensure good supplies

SUPPLIES of life-saving blood products could be imported from a new blood processing plant in Australia to ensure that Hong Kong hospitals and pharmacies never run out.

The plant, which is the largest in the southern hemisphere, opened yesterday and will be able to supply the territory with blood products from another country if local blood donations cannot meet demand.

The Red Cross Blood Transfusion Service in Hong Kong has been using the Melbourne laboratory to process its blood donations since the mid-1980s.

But the expansion of the company will mean it could easily cope with any rise in demand from the territory.

A spokesman for the Hospital Authority said: ''We do not envisage a blood shortage in Hong Kong because the Red Cross is doing a good job of planning ahead and recruiting donors.

''But if we did encounter a supply problem then we could buy blood products from the plant.'' The Red Cross assesses the demand for blood products from hospitals and then ships the appropriate amount taken from local donors to the plant for processing.

Consultant haematologist at the transfusion service, Dr Lin Che-kit, said: ''We have a regular contract with the plant but although it now has the capacity to process more blood we will only send more if the hospitals ask for more blood products.

''At the moment we are in a position to send more local blood for processing if that becomes necessary.'' Governor Chris Patten will visit the new factory this week during his two-day visit to Melbourne.

Supplies of blood products dropped by 20 to 30 per cent in Hong Kong following the Lunar New Year with the situation described as ''tight'' but ''not alarming''.