Saturday, August 13

Don’t appeal for blood over social media, patients advised

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KUALA LUMPUR: The next-of-kin of patients in need of blood can contact the National Blood Centre or other blood banks directly instead of sending a plea over social media.

Dr Nor Hafidza Haron, a medical officer at the centre, said the NBC could act swiftly and provide adequate supply of blood on time.

She said she appreciated the noble intention of Malaysians to help obtain blood for needy patients, but the centre had a list of donors who would come forward to help, even with rare blood types.

Dr Nor Hafidza was asked to comment on the two text messages that went viral recently over social media appealing for blood donors with Rh-negative blood.

The Health Ministry’s Medical Development Division director Datuk Dr Azman Abu Bakar said one of the messages, sent last April, involved a child with congenital heart disease.

The surgery was carried out successfully with blood supplied from the National Blood Centre, he added.

“The other message was sent out in early May for a woman who required blood transfusion as part of supportive therapy for an underlying medical condition, and the NBC supplied the blood the next day,” he said.

While the viral messages can be seen positively as a way to alert the public to the need for a continuous supply of rare blood types, it can portray a negative image of the Ministry of Health and the National Blood Centre.

“It creates a false impression of MOH and NBC’s capabilities and responsibilities to ensure our commitment in supplying a continuous, safe, adequate, equitable and efficient supply of blood and blood products to meet the healthcare needs of the nation,” he said.

Dr Azman said NBC always maintained a certain number of bags of different blood types, including Rh-negative, for emergency demand from hospitals.

He said the viral messages on social media created an oversupply of blood and hindered the scheduled collection of rare blood types as donors could only give blood every two to three months.

He said there had been instances where blood donors became upset when they were turned away by the NBC and other MOH blood banks when they came to donate blood because stocks of a particular blood type were already in excess.

“As donated blood can only last for a certain period of time (35 to 42 days), it may be possible that the excessive blood bags would have to be discarded as they would have passed the shelf life when there is no demand for that blood type at that particular time.

“The main concern is that our community and blood donors may only come forward to donate blood in response to ad hoc pleas made over the social media while blood for transfusion is required everyday throughout the country,” he said.

Dr Azman said it had to be understood that considering there was a small number of blood donors in the population, the NBC and other MOH blood banks would call these donors regularly for them to donate and keep a certain number of bags of rare blood types in stock to support emergency and life-threatening bleeding cases.

He said blood donation was a shared responsibility, and Malaysians had to understand the importance of blood donation, and should be encouraged to donate blood to ensure a steady supply of blood at all times. — Bernama