Blood supplies at the Regional Blood Transfusion Centre (CRTS) were below minimum levels earlier this week which caused health professionals to send out an urgent appeal for donors to come forward. As usual the appeal touched the solidarity of the general public and queues formed at the centre on Tuesday. Sergio Fernández, a CRTS doctor and coordinator of the bone marrow donation programme, explains how the situation had become critical. Every day, approximately 250 bags of blood are needed in Malaga hospitals. Fernández spoke to SUR on Monday when the appeal was made, as supplies dropped to 400 units, enough for two or three days at the most. The appeal will be considered urgent until the bank goes up to 1,000 units which allows the service some breathing space.
What happened in order to have to make such an urgent appeal to people to give blood?
Every year at around this time there is a decrease in the number of donations. This year Malaga fair [a busy time for A&E departments] has taken place earlier in August. Plus, our regular donors are away on holiday, there is a massive influx of tourists, many operating theatres [which often close in August] have stayed open, and units such as Oncology and Intensive Care still require blood. All these factors have led to the sums not adding up.
The appeal has gone out to donors from all type of blood groups.
Whenever we make an appeal, we make sure that blood donors come from all different types of groups, especially from groups O and A, which are both very common in our area.
In other words, O negative blood ("universal") and O positive are both in demand?
Yes. O negative is compatible with all blood types and O positive is very common in the Mediterranean area.
Apart from all the frequent donors, I assume that in these cases it is necessary to try to attract new people to give blood.
Of course. In fact, we benefit from these urgent appeals in that we attract new donors and make them more aware of the campaign so that later we can encourage them to become frequent donors.
How many blood units are necessary every day in Malaga in order to guarantee the supply?
We need around 250 bags of blood every day. This is the amount needed to face the daily demand.
So the problem is that the demand for blood remains the same in August, but donations decrease and this upsets the balance.
Yes, exactly. Donations always decrease in August. In the summer many of our donors go on holiday. We notice the decrease.
In order to combat the anticipated decrease you launch a special campaign just before the summer in order to be on the safe side. Did the one this year work out well?
Yes. The response is always exceptional. We notice that soon after we make the appeal, people don't take long to donate. Campaigns usually work really well, since we get exceptional responses from local people. This summer's campaign worked very well. The problem is that that campaign was some time ago and as the donations haven't picked up in the last couple of weeks, we had to make this urgent appeal.
What plan to you have for September?
In September we will reopen the unusual blood donor spots in inland areas of the province. In October, we will start the donations campaign at Malaga University.
What are the essential requirements to become a blood donor?
You have to be in between 18 and 65 years old, to be in good physical conditions and be willing to give blood, which is the most important thing of all.
Where can people give blood?
In Malaga city the Regional Blood Transfusion Centre centre building is located in the grounds of the Hospital Civil and open from Monday to Saturday, 9am to 2pm. The mobile blood donation bus parks in the Avenida de Andalucía [opposite El Corte Inglés] from Monday to Friday, 9am to 2pm. We also travel with the mobile unit to towns on both sides of the Costa del Sol.