Just 3% of eligible blood donors make donations

Irish Blood Transfusion Service says travel abroad remains a major reason why people did not donate

The Irish Blood Transfusion Service said travel abroad remained a major reason why donors were deferred from giving blood. Photograph: Getty Images

The Irish Blood Transfusion Service said travel abroad remained a major reason why donors were deferred from giving blood. Photograph: Getty Images

 

Just 3 per cent of the population eligible to give blood actually do so, yet one in four people will need blood transfusions at some stage in their lives, the Irish Blood Transfusion Service has said.

Publishing its annual report for 2015 on Monday, the service said travel abroad remained a major reason why donors were deferred from giving blood.

Insect-borne virus diseases acquired when travelling, even within Europe or the USA, were “a concern”, since these could be readily transmitted from donor to blood transfusion recipient even when the donor felt well and healthy.

The IBTS said West Nile virus, Chikungunya, and Dengue were present in continental Europe as well as farther afield in 2015.

It had also kept “a wary eye” on the parasitic disease babesiosis in the north eastern US and the Mers-CoV respiratory illness in the Middle East.

“More exotic viruses, including Bourbon virus in the mid-west USA, and zika virus in South America that was to cause such concern later, were also kept under surveillance.”

Chief executive Andrew Kelly said in 2015 the service had continued to deliver blood tranfusion “to the highest standards despite the many challenges the organisation faced”.

“We continue to operate in a very constrained financial environment and there is a requirement for us to effect further cost savings. For the first time in a number of years there was an increase in the use of blood and platelets. However, the usage is 13 per cent and 10 per cent lower than 2009 for red cells and platelets respectively.”

The IBTS said about 90,000 donors were impacted by a problem with a new method for testing haemoglobin levels, which it had identified towards the end of 2015.

The problem with the new system resulted in donations being taken from women who may have been anaemic at the time their haemoglobin levels were tested, or who may have become anaemic as a result.

A total of 132,953 whole blood donations were processed nationally in 2015.

The board’s total income last year was €65.69 million, which included €65.43 million in income from the sale of products and services provided to hospitals.

Expenditure for 2015 amounted to €71.61 million compared to €68.03 million in 2014.

The IBTS said the increase in expenditure mainly arose from increased employer pension costs.

It emerged last year that the IBTS owed the State €10.3 million in pension-related deductions from staff.

In a statement, the IBTS said it had, in conjunction with the Department of Health and the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform, negotiated a solution with staff and their representatives to align the IBTS scheme with that of public servants who pay PRSI at class A1.

Separately in its annual report, the service warned that it continued to face financial challenges.

Chairman Prof Anthony Staines said the service hoped its “long-standing proposal” to link its prices to its internal activity-based costing system would be accepted by the Department of Health and Minister for Health Simon Harris.