Donors help blood bank buck the trend

Donors help blood bank buck the trend
Mr Shanmugam Elangovan, 25, an entrepreneur, was given a bronze award yesterday for having donated blood at least 25 times.

Nationwide blood donation rates have been falling in recent years, but the Dhoby Ghaut blood bank bucks the trend.

Between 2012 and last year, average daily donations there have gone up by more than half, said Health Minister Gan Kim Yong yesterday. The Health Sciences Authority (HSA), he added, will expand the existing premises at the centre located in Dhoby Ghaut MRT station by adding an interview room and three more beds. It now has two interview rooms and 10 beds.

Tender documents uploaded by the HSA show it plans to add another unit of space to the centre. The expansion, which bumps up the total floor area to 264 sq m, will be done by December.

"We hope that this expansion would allow us to increase blood collection and give our donors a better experience," said Mr Gan yesterdayat an event held at the Singapore Discovery Centre to mark World Blood Donor Day.

Singapore Red Cross secretary-general Benjamin William said the organisation has been a victim of its own success in a way, as enough blood has been donated in recent years to ensure no serious shortages. "As a result, Singaporeans have become a bit complacent," Mr William said. "People don't see that there is a problem."

But in reality, blood donor numbers are dwindling as the population ages and people develop medical conditions that prevent them from donating blood. In 2013, there were 70,824 blood donors. Last year, this number shrank to 68,868.

A greying Singapore also means more people are likely to need blood transfusions in future, Mr William added. The SRC estimates Singapore will need more than 120,000 units of blood over this year and this is likely to be 220,000 by 2030. This is why the SRC is trying to increase the proportion of healthy young blood donors to at least 35 per cent of the whole, up from 30 per cent last year.

"I think there's a big pool of very motivated, social-minded young people," Mr William said. "But there are so many causes out there now. You need to help them to understand the importance of blood donation."

One young blood donor is Mr Shanmugam Elangovan, 25, an entrepreneur, who was given a bronze award yesterday for having donated blood at least 25 times.

He made his first donation at 16, and has never looked back since.

"It's just two hours a month. It's not a lot of time," he said.

This article was first published on June 7, 2015.
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