Phnom Penh’s National Blood Transfusion Center (NBTC) has dropped to its lowest level of the year, with only 10 units in stock and doctors relying heavily on patients’ family members and friends to donate in emergency situations, health officials said Thursday.
NBTC Director Dr. Hok Kim Cheng said that the blood bank was in desperate need of replenishment and that there was nowhere near enough blood in stock to meet current demand.
“We are experiencing a very critical shortage of blood, and blood is urgently needed,” Dr. Kim Cheng said. “We only have 10 units of blood. We have more plasma, but we need the red blood cells. Patients in hospitals need about 60 to 80 units every day. When the patients need blood, we need their families to donate blood.”
The current amount of stock in the blood bank has dropped considerably since January when there were about 1,000 units being held.
It is ideal to have at least 3,000 units in the blood bank in order to meet demand. However, reserves have been depleted for some weeks and by the end of August, stocks had dropped to 200 units due to students—one of the main sources of donations—going home for the holidays.
Desperate to bolster stocks, Dr. Kim Cheng has made appeals on Facebook and on the radio asking for people to donate, but he said that the Pchum Ben holiday is doing nothing to help the situation.
“It’s very difficult,” Dr. Kim Cheng said. “We cannot organize mobile blood collection units now because it’s a big holiday. But we plan at the end of this month to renew our blood stock.”
According to Dr. Mardy Sek, national professional officer for blood safety at the World Health Organization, the “replacement system” of securing blood for transfusions from family members or friends on the spot “is not ideal.”
“Even when we have enough blood stock, we need the blood to be brought to the hospital and the family members and friends donate,” he said. “But instead, they will receive the safe blood that has been tested and screened.”
“But now that the stock has depleted, it’s difficult for patients. It takes time to screen the blood and make sure it’s safe to give to the patient…they might not get transfused in time.”
Both Dr. Kim Cheng and Dr. Sek said the shortage is particularly acute because of the traditional increase in road accidents around the Pchum Ben festival as hundreds of thousands of people take to the roads to visit their home provinces.
Dr. Chhoeung Yav Yen, deputy director of the Khmer-Soviet Hospital, said the hospital currently has enough blood in its own storage bank, but still relies on relatives’ donations.
“If a person needs blood, we ask their relatives to provide blood,” he said.
(Additional reporting by Mech Dara)
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