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Low blood reserves threaten Costa Rica health care

Posted: Friday, June 22, 2012 - By Matt Levin
Costa Rican hospitals are constantly faced witha shortage of blood supplies, and doctors say they would not have enough reserves to deal with a large national emergency. Lawmakers could help change that with a bill that would reorganize blooddonations across the country.

Costa Rica has a blood-supply shortage due to a lack of donors. The country on average receives about 35,000 blood donations a year, but needs double that to fillreserves. Photos Courtesy of the Central Blood Bank
From the print edition
During emergencies, Costa Rican doctors in many cases must scramble to find blood donors.
The lack of voluntary blood donationsin the country has long been troubling for health officials. If a large highway accident occurred or a natural disaster took place, the head of the Central Blood Bank said Costa Rica likely would nothave enough blood reserves to help victims.
Only 56 percent of Costa Rica’s blood donations come from voluntary donors visiting a blood bank, Central Blood Bank President Erna Meléndez said. Thecountry receives 35,000 voluntary donations per year, when hospitals require almost double that to be sufficient. As a result, when transfusions are needed, hospitals rely on less-efficient methods.
“Whenthere are special operations, like a transplant or an accident, we have to run and make a call for donations,” Meléndez said. “Here frequently you’ll see in the media, ‘Hospital X needs blooddonors.’ This is evidence that the country doesn’t rely on an adequate  system to provide a reserve in cases of an emergency.”
The problem with receiving donations from family – and the lack of voluntaryblood donors as a whole – is that when people are compelled to donate because a family member or friend is ill complications can arise. A donor might not be healthy enough to give blood or might not...