Hospitals warned of blood shortage by IBTS


Hospitals have been advised by the Irish Blood Transfusion Service to postpone elective surgery due to a shortage of blood.

The IBTS said there was an acute shortage of blood and unless more donors came forward, scheduled operations might be deferred in the coming weeks. The shortage would affect operations such as hip replacements, according to the transfusion service.

Ms Helen McGrath, donor services manager, said there was usually a fall-off in blood donations after Christmas. A similar warning was issued last January.

She pointed out that while 100,000 people donated blood, there were 1.2 million potential adult donors who had never donated blood.

Ireland does not have a culture of blood donation according to the IBTS so when donations decline, it has serious implications for blood supply to hospitals.

"It is unfortunate that we find ourselves in the position of having to take this extreme measure but the public must be aware that a patient in hospital cannot undergo a surgical procedure if sufficient quantities of their blood type is not available," she said. "If people are not donating blood, we cannot obviously guarantee a steady supply to hospitals."

Ms McGrath referred to an incident in the West recently when a maternity patient received about 40 units of blood: "If those 40 people had not donated blood within the previous month, that patient would have died." The patient made a full recovery.

The IBTS acknowledged that the blood tribunals had done little to encourage a culture of blood donation but said people must not allow the tragedies of the past affect their decisions to give blood in 2002.

"The IBTS today is operating on radically different procedures, tests and resources than it did in the past. Blood today has never been safer," Ms McGrath said.

The IBTS has organised two special clinics on Sunday: at D'Olier Street, Dublin 11 a.m to 3.30 p.m and Bunclody, Co Wexford, with times advertised locally.

Other clinics are taking place this week in Ashbourne, Cork, Carrick-on-Suir, Cashel, Limerick, Belturbet, Ballybay and Portlaoise.

Details of blood donor clinics are available on 1850 731137.