[EDITORIALS]A blood supply in crisisA sharp decline in blood donation has left medical institutions in a crisis. The supply of concentrated red blood cells needed for transfusions for acute hemorrhage patients is less than half the recommended supply. The blood platelets needed for transfusions for leukemia patients is at a little over 30 percent. At this rate, we could face the terrible situation of abandoning emergency surgeries or organ donations for lack of blood. This is all the more worrisome because the number of blood donors will decrease further around November when colds and the flu prevail.
The situation has gotten this far because of public distrust in management of the blood supply. Blood donors have been infected with HIV and malaria, and blood contaminated with a hepatitis virus has been used in hospitals. In addition, about 9 percent of the supply tests positive for various diseases, or has passed its expiry date. Under such circumstances, we cannot blame only the public for their reluctance to donate blood.
In advanced countries, blood donors are meticulously questioned about their medical and sexual histories to ensure a safe blood supply. As a result, more blood is collected from women and those over 50 than from men in their 20s, who are more sexually active. But in Korea, we rely on the military for 40 percent of our supply, simply because it is easier to collect from soldiers. If not for the military, we would have already had a serious shortage.
Health authorities must revise the blood supply management system completely. The Korea National Red Cross, which monopolizes the blood donation business, should allocate an adequate number of highly skilled personnel to the task and raise its level of professionalism. We should not continue to rely on easy and careless methods to collect and manage blood, as we are doing now.
More than anything, the public should keep an open mind. A society that cannot save a life that could have been saved but for a lack of blood is a sick society. People must realize that donating blood is a noble act of sharing life and making this community a valuable one.