Blood banks running on empty

The corps of blood donors has gradually shrunk, leaving hospitals critically short of supplies

Hospitals risk having to cancel operations if they do not find a fresh supply of blood donors in the near future. Since 2002, the number of donors has shrunk by nearly 6000, leaving blood banks figuratively in the red.

Fear of needles or catching HIV deters new donors from signing up, according to Per Hemmingsen, the head of Blood Donors in Copenhagen.

'We've reached our limit in principle. We tap our donors to the max right now,' Hemmingsen told daily newspaper 24timer.

Despite men being able to donate four times a year compared to three times for women, Hemmingsen had noticed a trend among young men to say 'no thanks' to the needle, due to their fears of being pricked.

Dr Morten Bagge Hansen, the head of State Hospital's blood bank, noted that while hospitals would always have enough blood on supply for emergency situations, the current shortage could force doctors to postpone operations.

He suggested that the National Board of Health consider loosening its strict requirements for donating. Current regulations, for example, prohibit people over 65 years old from donating.

'One solution to the problem would be to raise the age limit or allow people who take small doses of high-blood pressure medication to donate,' said Hansen.

Current rules also prohibit people who have tattoos or piercing, effectively excluding a large population of young people, Hansen said.

Other regulations bar people who have travelled to lived in countries where certain diseases, such as malaria and mad cow disease have been identified. Such rules mean, for example, that anyone who has been in the United Kingdom for a cumulative total of 12 months or longer between 1980 and 1996 are unable to give blood.

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