Blood shipped across nation as Red Cross issues plea for donors


Donor giving life by giving blood at local WA Red Cross blood donation centre. Photo credit: Chloe Meakins

The Red Cross is being forced to transport blood from WA to the Eastern States as it struggles to maintain patient demands across the nation.

The Australian Red Cross Lifeblood relies on receiving 31,000 blood, plasma and platelet donations a week across all six states.

But during the COVID-19 pandemic hospitals requested extra blood, which is used to help patients that are suffering from cancer, trauma, pregnancy or undergoing major surgery.

According to WA’s Red Cross spokeswoman Jess Willet, Eastern State’s hospitals require more blood than what’s being donated, so the ability to export blood is crucial.

“Perth has a lot more O-negative blood donations compared to the eastern-states, as they go through their O-negative donations more quickly,” Ms Willet says.

“We aren’t reaching our patient demands either as Perth hospitals have increased their demands because everyone is getting procedures done that they’ve had to delay because of COVID-19.”

The Red Cross has urgently been calling for people under the age of 30 to donate blood for more than six months.

Last week donation centres recorded 44,000 empty donor couches as well as an increase in donors cancelling their appointments at the last minute.

“One-in-three people were cancelling last minute which meant we couldn’t find a replacement to fill that slot,” Ms Willet says.

“One 500ml donation of blood helps save the lives of three people and lets us check the donors blood to make sure they don’t have an iron-deficiency, low white cells or haemoglobin,” Ms Willet says.

“We’re unsure why [donors aren’t donating] but we believe it’s due to people catching up with friends and family, which is great but the need for blood never stops.”

Ms Willet says that despite states being unable to support their own demands the process of importing and exporting blood is a safe and efficient process to get blood to where it needs to be.

“Blood is taken then stored in either fridges or freezers at processing centres which is where the blood is then tested and determined if it’s safe to be used,” Ms Willet says.

“We then send it either by courier or plane in shippers which are like eskies filled with dry ice so the blood is stored at the appropriate temperature,”

“The total distance that blood can travel a week nationally is around 4M/km but intrastate they can travel 370km, which is the same as driving from Perth to Albany.”