Dr Trần Ngọc Quế. — Photo danviet.vn
Dr Trần Ngọc Quế, Director at the Stem Cellbank at the National Institute of Hematology Blood Transfusion talks to the newspaper Nông Thôn Ngày Nay (Countryside Today) on the need to have good management of blood donors in accordance to their blood groups.
What are the key reasons leading to the current shortage of the type O blood in Việt Nam?
Up to 50 per cent of the Vietnamese population has the type O blood. That means the demand for that type of blood also accounts for 50 per cent. Nowadays, the National Institute of Haematology and Blood Transfusion (NIHBT) supplies blood to about 150 hospitals in Hà Nội and 30 hospitals from 17 northern provinces with an average of 1,500 blood units a day, of which 700 blood units belong to type O.
However, in our current blood bank, we have only 2,000 units of the type O blood which will be used up in three days at most. Normally, the NIHBT needs some 15,000 blood units, of which 5,000-7,000 of them belong to the type O blood in our reserve storage.
Blood donor days have been launched regularly, why does the NIHBT suffer from such a serious shortage of blood?
We often face the problem of blood shortages in the summer. As we all know, summer is the time for many people to go for their holidays. As a result, it is often a peak time for road accidents and a result a high urgent demand for blood.
In the past several years, the shortage of blood often occurs from late June to early July. But this year it occured a bit later. However, in late August and early September, NIHBT will be in a big problem of blood shortage. A key reason is that by that time of the year students – the bulk of blood donors have not returned to their universities or colleges, while in that period of time we have a long national holiday for Government officers and workers as well as the students.
More people on the roads means more accidents. As a result, we need more blood to give to the injuries. Adding to the problem, stormy weather coupled with heavy rains has delayed some scheduled blood donation events which directly lead to the blood scarcity in our banks.
Which patients desperately need blood transfusion?
At present, we don’t have enough blood type O to give to patients who need it. However, in such circumstances, we have to give priority to emergency cases, including road accidents and patients in the operating theatres.
For people with chronic diseases requiring regular blood transfusions, we have re-scheduled their appointments. If they normally get a blood transfusion every one or two days, now they have to wait for one each 3- 4 days. This is the only solution for us in such a serious shortage of blood for transfusion.
Many people have argued that blood cannot be stored for a long time and if we keep launching blood donation campaigns, it will lead to the problem of surplus blood, do you agree?
Scientifically speaking, glomerule blood type could be kept for only 3-5 days, while red blood cell kept at the maximum of 42 days (but normally it is only kept in 35 days). Meanwhile, the plasma could be kept for one year. However, the types of blood that most wanted are glomerule or red blood cells. That’s why we need to calculate carefully which days should we launch blood donation campaigns.
In many foreign countries, the percentage of voluntary repeated blood donors account for about 70 per cent while in our country, the percentage is just about 40 per cent. In Japan, it has become a routine that a Japanese citizen would donate their blood twice in a year. This is a good example for us to learn from.
In my opinion, in the future, we should manage the blood donors by their blood types. By doing so, I’m sure that we will be in a better position to ensure a good supply of blood for our patients. According to the World Health Organisation, we need to have groups of volunteers to donate their blood periodically. This will help us to have a steady and reliable supply of good quality and safe blood. — VNS