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China needs 3,935 tons of blood every year, which means that 70,000 people need to donate blood daily. By 2015, that figure will increase to 120,000.
(Ecns.cn)--China is facing a blood supply shortage as the use of blood for more advanced procedures continues to increase, while cold weather and the Chinese New Year have discouraged people to donate, revealed the People's Daily on Thursday.
Since December last year, blood banks in Nanjing, Jiangsu Province, have capped supplies to the city's hospitals, resulting in an acute shortage of type-A and type-O blood, according to an insider at a blood bank. "Now, the blood banks grant at most only one-third of what applicants ask for."
Ren Xuemei, director of the Emergency Department at Beijing Chaoyang Hospital, added that tighter restrictions have been imposed on the use of blood. As a result, patients can only be given transfusions if they are suffering from life threatening illnesses.
Beijing has experienced a blood shortage since November 2011 due to declining donors at blood collection stations, causing the Red Cross Society of China to organize blood donations on January 8 in the capital.
At a regular press briefing in December 2011, Health Ministry spokesman Deng Haihua pointed out that the proportion of citizens donating blood remains low compared to other countries.
"The blood donation rate in our country is only 8.7 percent, which lags behind the 45.4 percent of high-income countries, the 10.1 percent of middle-income countries and even the 10 percent recommended by the World Health Organization," Caixin Magazine quoted Deng.
China needs 3,935 tons of blood every year, which means that 70,000 people need to donate blood daily. By 2015, that figure will increase to 120,000, the newspaper added.
According to Deng, the number of blood donations increased from 6.75 million in 2006 to 11.8 million in 2010, an increase of 74.8 percent. Yet the Beijing News revealed that in 2011 the capital witnessed a decrease in blood donations for the first time ever, declining by 5 percent during the first half of the year, and by 13 percent in October and November alone.
Seasonality is partially to blame for the decline. Winter and summer holidays usually see reduced blood donations compared to the rest of the year, Yu Chengpu, a researcher at Zhongshan University's Health Research Center, told Xinhua News Agency, because most donors are university students and migrant workers.
"Few are willing to donate blood in such cold weather, and many non-local people have gone home for the Spring Festival," said Zeng Jia, an official with a blood center in Fujian Province.
Statistics show that during the 2011 Chinese New Year, the number of donors in Fuzhou, capital of Fujian, were half as many as the same period a year before, and that type-O blood supplies were sufficient for only four days.
Yet donations currently account for 100 percent of the country's blood bank, the People's Daily said.
Another reason for the dwindling supply is that public trust in charities has declined due to a series of scandals in 2011, philanthropy officials told Caixin.
The Beijing Health Bureau admitted to the Beijing Evening Post last year that its volume of blood donations in July and August had decreased following the "Guo Meimei Incident," which brought into question the country's most high-profile humanitarian organization—the Red Cross Society of China (RCSC).
"Guo Meimei triggered distrust of social organizations," an official with the Beijing Red Cross Blood Center told the Beijing News. "It is one of the reasons that blood donations have dramatically declined."
Moreover, Lang Xianping, a prominent economist, wrote after the incident that he suspected the RCSC of receiving free blood donations but selling them to hospitals at a high price.
Since then, the oft-repeated phrase "donating blood doesn't cost money, but using blood costs money" has become a common manifestation of public distrust, appearing frequently in blogs, microblogs and comments, said Caixin.
Furthermore, the blood donation mechanism is still separate from the medical insurance system in China, which causes difficulties for donors to get refunds for using blood themselves, analyzed the People's Daily.
Safety concerns also contribute to blood shortages, said the Global Times.
"I'm worried about the safety of the needles and the general sanitation," Zhan Nana, a 24-year-old college student, said of her reluctance to donate.
But Wang Houfang, a doctor at United Family Healthcare in Beijing, told the Global Times that all the donation procedures in the city are safe, and "actually, blood donation can boost a donor's metabolism."
The capital's blood center once prolonged its working hours and provided fruit and juice to donors in an effort to resolve the need for blood.
"China's population base is very big and we should focus more on inspiring more eligible people of the right age to donate blood, so as to meet the increasing demand," Deng Haihua noted, but he refuted media reports that the government planned to widen the age range of healthy citizens eligible for blood donation.