Opinion: Problems with Phuket’s blood supply

Dr Suprang Suttantapidok, MD, is a hematologist at Vachira Phuket Hospital and the head of the hospital’s blood bank. A Phuket native, she graduated from the Faculty of Medicine at Siriraj Hospital and specialized in hematology. She has been working for Vachira Phuket Hospital since 2013.

Here, she talks about the blood-related issues that Phuket faces and the needs of the blood bank to support the increasing number of visitors on the island.

PHUKET: To my knowledge and from what I see in the hospital, more and more people are coming to the island, with this year seeing the largest influx of visitors yet. Meanwhile, the airport is expanding to welcome more tourists as well. More tourists means that more blood is likely to be required.

We don’t begrudge the visitors coming to Phuket; the Tourism Authority of Thailand are doing their job and we are doing ours. Additionally, we don’t wish to deny blood to anyone who needs it. All we can do is try our best to help them.

Shortage of staff is a major problem that we are facing at the blood bank. We do not have enough officers to meet the ever-increasing requirement of patients. We have made some headway in this regard, but we still need more staff to fulfill our requirements.

I have discussed the issue with the hospital director, Dr Jessada Chungpaibulpatana, and he agreed to fill more open positions for medical technologists.

It takes about 20 minutes to collect blood from a donor, but the blood isn’t ready for use at that point. It takes up to two days to process it, ensure that it is safe for use and matches the patients’ blood type.

This is why we need qualified specialists in the laboratory to test blood for Hepatitis B, Hepatitis C, HIV, syphilis and other diseases, before it can be used.

The supply of blood in our blood bank is available for use in our own hospital, as well as other nearby government and private hospitals. We also coordinate with the Phuket Regional Blood Center (PRBC).

In case we do not have enough blood to meet our requirements, we call the regular donors on our list for blood types A, B, AB, O and Rh-negative.

Our hospital has a lot of specialists and experts, so many patients come here for treatment, both as inpatients and emergency cases. Some people are hospitalized for months on end, so we need a steady supply of blood for their treatment.

At this point, we do not use blood substitutes or other blood-based products. Therefore, we need more people to donate blood in order for us to regularly replenish our own supplies.

We do have blood units in stock, but there is always demand for more. We welcome all blood donors, whether Thais or foreigners. With the increasing number of people, the chances of accidents and emergency cases become higher too. Of course, we can always hope that this won’t be the case, but we need to be prepared regardless.

Blood units can be stored for more than 40 days, so donors are welcome to come and help us build up our supplies.

The media has a very important role to play in this situation. Most of the readers of the Phuket Gazette are foreigners. This makes it a valuable and important forum to spread the message to all foreigners that the more blood they donate, the more lives we can save.

Your blood can help save many lives, especially donations of Rh-negative, which is more common among foreigners than Thais.

Blood donations can be made at Vachira Phuket Hospital, Monday through Friday from 8:30am to 8pm, and Saturdays, Sundays and public holidays from 8:30am to 3pm.

— Chutharat Plerin


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