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Blood Service Faces Donor Issue

NEWS RELEASE - 14 June 2005

Blood Service Faces Donor Issue

The New Zealand Blood Service has revealed that a drop in the number of regular donors is putting pressure on the stocks needed to service the country's blood requirements.

Every week the non-profit organisation needs to collect more than 3,000 whole blood donations to meet the needs of patients throughout New Zealand. But CEO Dr Graeme Benny says the NZBS generally has just enough blood stocks to meet demand and that situation is becoming more difficult as the number of regular donors continues to fall.

"Very few organisations work as 'hand-to-mouth' as the Blood Service," Dr Benny said. "Stocks of key blood components often fall to levels that require the blood to be shifted around the country to ensure product is available in every area. Every day is a challenge."

The loss of regular donors is considerable. Last year the NZBS attracted 23,000 new donors, but also lost 28,000 donors in the same period.

"It is difficult to keep track of donors as, like many New Zealanders, they move regularly and staying in touch is difficult," Dr Benny said. "Our retention programme has become a major priority because it's more efficient and effective to retain donors than it is to recruit new ones."

Incredibly, less than 5% of New Zealanders give blood, but a whopping 80% of Kiwis will need blood or blood products during their lifetime.

The need for blood spans many health areas, but its value is often forgotten due to the seriousness of the original ailment. Donated blood is the silent hero in disease treatment, including cancer, haemophilia and immuno-deficient patients, surgical procedures, from emergency surgery through to elective surgery, and dealing with trauma victims.

"Name just about any area of medicine and on any given day they will almost certainly be using blood products," Dr Benny said. "From the Accident & Emergency rooms through all types of surgery to the neonatal units and beyond, often we only have just enough blood to meet demand."

TV personality Lana Coc-Kroft has lent her support to the NZBS as it marks World Blood Donor Day, a global celebration designed to create wider awareness of the importance of blood donation and encourage more people to become regular donors.

The mother of two had been a donor for 21 years before she needed blood transfusions herself after becoming seriously ill while filming Celebrity Treasure Island last year. Lapsing in and out of consciousness for days with streptococcal toxic shock syndrome from an infected coral cut, Ms Coc-Kroft described the two blood transfusions she received as "the kiss of life".

"I was a wreck and felt fatigued and wiped out," she said. "Nothing compared to the boost I received from the transfusions; that blood gave me the energy to face the long road to recovery."

Ms Coc-Kroft says she had no real motivation to start donating blood when she was 16 years old - "it just seemed like the right thing to do" - but she now appreciates how important her donations were.

"It's hard to articulate how grateful you are for that 'shot in the arm' and I find it amazing that someone's blood can get into your body and make such a wonderful difference.

"It's humbling to think your contribution can have such a positive impact on someone's life and now that I've been medically cleared to donate again I'm keen to put my hand up to help because every little bit counts."

The NZBS is part of the public health service and is a national non-profit organisation which collects blood from volunteer donors for the treatment of patients across the country - from car accident victims and newborn babies, to burn victims and people with illnesses.

All blood types are currently needed from donors aged between 16-60, weighing over 50kg, have had no body piercing or tattoos in the past six months, and did not live in the UK between 1980-1996 for longer than six months.

Just 470mls of blood is taken per donation. The body replaces the fluid in 24-48 hours, and people are able to donate every three months.

You can make an appointment to become a donor by calling 0800 GIVE BLOOD or registering on the website at www.nzblood.co.nz.

ENDS

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