x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 25 July 2017

Doctors warn of blood shortages

Doctors warn that the country's hospitals are heading towards a serious shortage of blood supplies.

The Blood Donation Centre in Dubai is campaigning to get more people to give blood.
The Blood Donation Centre in Dubai is campaigning to get more people to give blood.

ABU DHABI // Doctors warned yesterday that the country's hospitals are headed towards a serious shortage of blood supplies because of the rising population and the prevalence in the UAE of blood disorders. Healthcare professionals said a significant increase in the number of donors was needed to keep up with demand. Last year, one per cent of the population donated blood, giving 86,000 units. "The healthcare sector is growing in an unpredictable way; it is much faster than expected," said Dr Laila al Shaer, head of the Blood Donation Centre-Dubai Health Authority. "We are monitoring all the levels and looking at the increased demand. We know we always need to be ready. What we have is fine for today, but definitely not enough for tomorrow." The opening of a new trauma centre at Rashid Hospital increased demand on the centre by 30 per cent, Dr al Shaer said. The number of private hospitals registered as recipients also rose, from 17 to 25. "There are a number of other big hospitals planned for Dubai which will need blood," she said. "There is another trauma centre coming and a paediatric hospital which will need our services. "We want to have proactive donors, not reactive. I want to remind people that they might be a victim who needs blood one day." There are no global statistics on blood donation. According to the UK's National Blood Service, four per cent of those eligible to donate do so. Dr Essam Atta, general manager of the GMC Hospital in Ajman, said the blood donations had to rise if hospitals were to continue saving lives. "Blood is used for any emergency delivery of babies, accidents, especially road accidents and blood diseases such as thalassaemia, which is very common in this country. There is also a high rate of trauma." The 150-bed hospital relies on the Sharjah Blood Transfusion and Research Centre. He said it had not had any problems with supply but was very aware of the increasing demands on the bank. Dr Mahra al Mazrouqi, the centre director, said it received a phone call "every minute" from hospitals in need of blood. "There are some times when we have cases in hospitals who need blood, especially negative blood groups, and we go through the blood bank system and we need to call the donors for emergency blood." Last year it collected between 120 and 230 units a day. The Abu Dhabi Blood Bank, which operates under Sheikh Khalifa Medical City, collected about 23,000 units last year; every unit of healthy blood it received was used. Dr Naima Oumeziane, head of the bank, said it hoped to increase donations by 10 to 15 per cent over last year. "At the moment supply is meeting demand but if we are to continue meeting demand, we need more donors," she said. "The health sector and population are growing so quickly we need to make sure we have enough." Dr Oumeziane said the bank constantly monitored the blood supplies and if it looks low it tries to get more donors. It has used SMS messages to appeal for them. "Each time we feel we could be in trouble we actually go out and seek more," she said. The blood bank holds two sessions a day at mobile units that travel across Abu Dhabi and plans soon to add mobile units. The Thalassaemia Centre in Dubai has about 450 regular patients with the genetic blood disorder who require transfusions 17 times a year, said Dr Essa Doheir, outreach coordinator. Depending on their health, they need between one and three units each time; that means, on average, the centre uses more than 15,000 each year. munderwood@thenational.ae