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Blood Donation in Hong Kong and You

Blood is the lifeblood of our lives. Seriously though, while occasions in which we need access to blood are (hopefully) few and far between, blood is still something that we should be concerned with.

Not only the blood that is currently in our bodies or our bodies’ capacity to create more, but the blood found in our locality, too. If you needed several pints of blood in a medical emergency today, would Hong Kong’s hospitals be well prepared to address your needs?

In actuality, that all depends on a number of factors. Here, Pacific Prime Hong Kong provides a comprehensive look at the issue of the city’s blood reserves, how they are maintained, and if Hong Kong has enough blood to go around.

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Overview of Blood Supply and Donation in Hong Kong

In Hong Kong, the availability of blood primarily relies on voluntary donors who selflessly contribute to support medical treatments and emergencies. However, factors such as population growth, limited donor participation, and seasonal fluctuations in blood demand contribute to occasional shortages.

To encourage blood donation, the Hong Kong Red Cross Blood Transfusion Service (BTS), which is the principal organization responsible for blood collection and distribution, regularly organizes donation campaigns and initiatives. These aim to attract new donors from diverse segments of the population.

Eligible blood donors in Hong Kong are individuals aged between 16 and 65 who meet specific health and eligibility criteria. Donors undergo comprehensive medical examinations, including tests for infectious diseases, to determine their suitability for donation.

Shortage of Blood Donors in Hong Kong

Despite continuous awareness efforts, the number of voluntary donors is often insufficient to meet the daily demand. In 2021, for example, the total collection target was 237,000+ units, but only 210,863 units were collected.

The shortage of blood units can have serious consequences, particularly in emergencies and for individuals with critical medical conditions. It can lead to delays or limitations in life-saving treatments, surgeries, and other procedures that rely on transfusions.

Moreover, it places a burden on the healthcare system, necessitating strategic resource allocation and patient prioritization based on the available blood supply. While the collection figure for 2021 may have been affected by COVID-19, the figure from 2018 (220,731 units) was only slightly better.

Eligibility for Blood Donation

You are eligible for blood donation in Hong Kong if:

  • You are in good health
  • Your weight is 41 kg or above (90 lbs or above)
  • You are aged between 16 and 65

To ensure the safety of both blood donors and recipients, the BTS implements rigorous screening procedures, including a health history questionnaire, hemoglobin and blood pressure checks, and more. Only individuals who meet all the eligibility criteria will be accepted.

For donors aged 66 or above who have previously donated within the last 2 years, they can be accepted for whole blood donation until the age of 75, subject to an annual health assessment and approval by a BTS medical officer.

Donors who are interested in knowing their upcoming donation due date are encouraged to access the BTS “Donor Web Portal” system, where they can conveniently conduct a preliminary self-assessment of their donation eligibility online.

Benefits of Blood Donation for the Donor

On top of the obvious health benefits from the screening and tests both before and after the blood donation itself, and the sense of fulfillment and satisfaction from knowing that what you’ve done will save lives, there are two little-known benefits of blood donation:

Expats at Risk

Caucasian people in Hong Kong are actually at greater risk of having negative medical outcomes due to an unavailability of blood for the purposes of transfusion. This is simply because of genetic differences between Caucasians and Asians.

Caucasian people are more likely to have Rhesus factor negative (Rh-) blood (i.e. an A- blood type, as opposed to an A+ one) than Asians. While 1 in 7 Caucasians will have a negative blood type, among the Chinese population, this ratio is more like 1 in 370.

The reserves of blood catering to Rh- blood types are thus significantly lower than their positive counterparts. Hong Kong’s Rh- blood is stored at a central facility from where they can be distributed to a facility that needs them, since there is not enough to send each hospital its own supply.

All this leaves ethnic Caucasians with Rh- blood to worry about what will happen in the event that they have a serious accident that causes the loss of substantial amounts of blood. People with Rh- blood are thus even more encouraged to donate blood regularly.

What Other Places Are Doing about Their Own Blood Shortages

Ever since the Hong Kong Red Cross launched its blood donation program in 1952, it has consistently upheld the principle of collection only from voluntary non-remunerated blood donors (VNRBDs). As a matter of fact, VNRBD has been hailed as the best guarantee for the safety of collected blood.

However, shortages in blood donations are not unique to Hong Kong, and five countries currently allow donors to be paid for their plasma, including Germany, Austria and the United States. In 2021, the worldwide blood plasma industry was valued at an eye-popping USD $24 billion.

The moral dilemma of this stems not only from a potentially lower quality of the collected blood. In places where people can sell their blood or plasma, voluntary blood donations are arguably not so much a helping hand for patients who need blood transfusion as a curse for those who need the income.

At the same time, it is beyond serious argument that the supply of blood and its related components can be significantly increased if people can donate blood for money. For people who need the income, selling their blood or plasma also represents a relatively easy way to make ends meet.

About Pacific Prime Hong Kong

Regular blood donation is clearly a winning strategy for your own health, and so is comprehensive and adequate insurance coverage for you and your family. With it, should you find yourself needing costly medical services, you can focus on getting well soon and not worry about paying the bills.

Whether you are interested in expat or international health insurance, for you or your family, we have a plethora of plans for you. With the right plan, you can even be repatriated back home for the most suitable care if needed, and your insurer will pay for it and help with the arrangements.

With 20+ years of experience in insurance, Pacific Prime Hong Kong is well positioned to tailor a solution that meets your needs and fits your budget, and you can benefit from our advice and support at no extra cost compared to going straight to an insurer.

So contact us for a quote or a FREE, no-obligation plan comparison today!

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Content Creator at Pacific Prime Hong Kong
Martin is a writer and translator with over 10 years of experience. He writes articles and blog posts, creates infographics and videos, translates between Chinese and English, and more. Skilled at explaining complicated concepts in layman’s terms, Martin believes the gold standard of translation is attained when the translated text is not only accurate, but also reads like an original text. Martin holds a degree in Economics from the University of London, UK.

Since joining Pacific Prime, Martin has become even more aware of the gap between the true value of insurance products and most people’s appreciation of it, and developed a passion for demystifying and simplifying matters, so that more people get the protection they need at a cost they can easily afford.

In his free time, Martin attends concerts of various genres, and plays the violin with piano accompaniment he pre-recorded himself or played live by his niece.
Martin Lee