Health Minister Chin Soo-hee, center, waits for her turn to donate blood during a campaign at the ministry in Jongno, downtown Seoul, Tuesday, alongside actress Han Chaeyoung and actor Bae Su-bin who serve as goodwill ambassadors for blood donation. / Yonhap
By Kim Tae-jong
The chronic shortage of blood stocks is worsening at collecting agencies as the number of donors has fallen sharply due to the freezing weather and other seasonal factors.
Concerns over H1N1 flu and school vacations are also compounding the problems, officials said.
On Tuesday, Health and Welfare Minister Chin Soo-hee pulled up her own sleeve to join a blood donation campaign at the ministry’s building in Jongno, downtown Seoul.
On top of ministry officials, popular actress Han Chae-young and actor Bae Su-bin, who serve as goodwill ambassadors for blood donation, also took part in the event.
Blood-collecting agencies are calling for the public to pay greater attention to donations as they might need it someday.
“Winter is typically a critical season when students, the dominant donors, are on their winter vacation. Recently freezing weather has also made people reluctant to donate blood,” said Han Song-yi, official from Hanmaum Blood Center.
Donations in recent months have decreased by up to 40 percent and the upcoming Lunar New Year could also bring about shortages as the need for blood rises due to increasing number of accidents during winter, she said.
The current stored amount of red cells can only be used for five days, two days shorter than the optimal level as of Jan. 23.
Han also said the safety of donors is guaranteed through the current screening system, emphasizing there is little chance for infections through donation.
“Please just visit nearby donation centers if you’re interested in giving blood. You will be properly examined and asked specific questions about your medical history to make sure that donating is possible, and your safety is guaranteed,” Han said.
Collection agencies have held various campaigns not only to encourage more people to donate blood but also to foster a more diversified pool of donors other than students and soldiers.
In line with the efforts, the health ministry also plans to extend the opening hours of the centers to encourage more people to donate blood.
Currently, a total of 132 donation centers are in operation nationwide, which are run by the two main blood collection agencies — the National Red Cross and the Hanmaum Blood Center.
Schools, public offices, military units and religious groups can make a reservation for a group donation by contacting the National Red Cross at 02-3705-8060 or Han Blood Donation at 02-586-2415.