Blood donation in Singapore: Altruism gets us only so far

Previous posts:
[My blog discussed in Shin Min Daily]
[Blood Donation in Singapore: Who gets the blood?]

We know that the blood stock in Singapore is low (see blood stock here Many people in Singapore agree that blood donation is a good thing to do but not everyone who is able to donate blood would donate because:
- Donating blood is highly inconvenient. Sure, it sounds like an excuse not to donate but it's a fact.
- What's in it for the donor?

1. Are the blood bank operating hours reasonable?

My friend rushed to the blood donation centre after work when he heard that his who is diagnosed with leukaemia friend needed O+ blood.

He arrived at the blood donation branch at National University Hospital (NUH) after 6pm to find that they were closing. He was told to come back another day if he wanted to donate blood.

Open till 6pm Mon-Fri

The operating hours at the blood bank is listed at their website:

Opening hours for Bloodbank@HSA

I went to NUH to speak with the man's wife after I was contacted by a reporter who asked whether she could speak with the man. (My friend suggested that we speak with his friend's wife at the hospital.) She told me that she managed to get a list of donors which she passed to the doctor. The blood donation centre contacted 2 donors in her list in the middle of the day and asked them whether they could come to the blood donation centre to donate blood within half an hour. They thought it was an emergency. They told her about it but she couldn't recall any emergency on the day that they were asked to rush to donate blood. My thoughts: it is likely that more were contacted this way because many potential donors in her list are not people whom she knows personally so they did not tell her about it.

Like the staff who work at the blood bank, most Singaporeans would have to work or study during office hours. I have a friend who uses his days off (paid time off) to donate blood regularly but how many people are willing to do that? We can argue that if people want to donate blood they will make time to do it but let's answer this question: Why should they inconvenience themselves?

2. Is it reasonable to give zero compensation to blood donors by preaching "blood donation saves lives"?

The blood donation itself may not take more than an hour but not everyone can be full of energy to jump back to work or perform their other life duties (such as caring for the family) after donating blood and drinking a cup of Milo. Donors may need to go home and lie down in bed. Donors who drove / rode there might need to leave their cars / motorbikes are the hospital, pay for parking and take a taxi home. Donors who took public transport there might need to take a taxi home. Donors who donate blood during office hours might need to take half a day off from work to donate blood. Think about how much they would have to spend in order to donate blood. Think about the opportunity cost of them being at the blood donate centre instead of being at work, studying, caring for the family, etc. All to lose and nothing to gain but the thought of being altruistic and a cup of Milo! Maybe that is why our blood supplies are always low.

Let's not deny that the public thinks that the blood bank and hospitals make money from taking free blood. (I know it costs money to retrieve, store and process blood but the public isn't convinced.)

I can understand why people are not allowed to sell their organs and body parts. Blood is different. It replenishes.

I think a flat transportation compensation of about $50 (that donors can choose whether or not to accept) and free parking would be reasonable. But I do not think that the money should come from the public/taxpayers. It should be paid for by recipients of blood. Why don't we ask people who have received blood or who are in need of blood whether they would be willing to pay $50 more per pack of blood if they didn't have to worry about the blood bank not having enough blood for them?

3. Blood donors do not get any privileges.
Many ex-donors such as my father are upset that they do not get privileges or priority if they themselves need blood transfusion. Many refuse to donate any more because of that. My father donated blood more than 50 times but he did not have any priority or privileges when he was warded in hospital. He can't donate now because he is on medication.

If donors and their family members get privileges, I think more people will step forward to donate.

Talking about privileges, I wonder: if the head of a large public-listed company in Singapore or some celebrity like Paris Hilton who is visiting Singapore requires blood transfusion, will his family get the same treatment as everyone else, i.e. he and his family will be told to get their list of donors? "Hey, Paris, we're running low on blood, can you round up your family and friends to find your own donors?"


cute_boboi said...

It's me again. I believe I deserve to give my 2 pints of blood, from the view of a regular blood donor (1-2 times a year, my next one is already scheduled at a weekend in Dec 2010)

1. Are the blood bank operating hours reasonable?

Based on 6pm closing and working hours, my answer no. But the blood bank should take initiative to operate open-house at companies/organisation/factory, or at certain locations in shopping malls, community halls at residential/HDB area, including weekends.

Also, paste some posters or update in the website where are the upcoming locations and date/time. That will be useful for people to plan on their journey before/after donating blood.

2. Is it reasonable to give zero compensation to blood donors by preaching "blood donation saves lives"?

Sorry to say, but this strengthens my believe that certain kiasu Singaporeans treat blood donation as selling blood. It is my belief that blood donation should not be matched with any monetary terms, whether from the donor or the recipient.

From donor point of view, giving blood is DONATION. You are not selling or barter trading for something. This is the same as giving things to charity. You do it, because you just do it. For some other, donating blood is the believe of karma or after-life, whatever crap. To me, I do not expect anything in return, but just hope my AB+ blood is useful for AB+ recipient, and not gone to waste 2-3 months later (blood has expiry date).

To the recipient, the practice is if receive 2 packs, then they must find people to replenish back 2 packs. If this comes to the point of buying blood, 98% of the selfish people will choose to pay, or deduct from their CPF or medical or insurance. This will leave no blood for others in need.

Where will this lead to ? Refer slightly above, it will become a trading market, where people will pay for blood, like selling organs.

I do donate blood in between working hours or when out at shopping mall. I even play badminton the next day after it (with a lot of breathing difficulties due to lack of red blood cells to carry oxygen). I meet and talk to many people, some are hard-labour contractors who goto work immediately after that. There is very minimal percentage of fainting or dying from it. You don't need a taxi to get home, just because donated blood.

BTW, lack of blood, will result in lack of full erection :-p

3. Blood donors do not get any privileges.

I do get some basic privilege from local 100% GOVERNMENT hospital. However, no privilege from private hospitals. There is nothing to shout about, not that I am expecting anything in return. However if people start thinking about getting priority due to donated blood, that again, is wrong thinking.

What's wrong with just plain giving without expecting anything back in return ?

BTW, Paris not coming to town. Can't even pass Tokyo immigration, and now sulking back in US.

Anonymous said...

Cuteboiboi are you from NUH???XD
If not, why are you so "PROTECTIVE" for NUH???=X
Is it they give you some "红包" to 抹黑 this article....=)

Savahn said...

Sometimes, you do things because its the right or good thing to do.

Imagine one day, you get into a major accident and bleed all over the place. Worse, you have had the misfortune to actually survive said accident. When you are lying in a hospital, you would be really grateful to those individuals who donated their blood.

Now imagine that no one cared enough to donate blood. So you are lying in the hospital bed and told by the doctor that you are going to die - assuming you are conscious. Why? Well, there isn't enough blood in the bank to replace what you have lost. They wont tell you that your organs will eventually starve of oxygen, water and nutrients and will eventually fail. At which point, you die of multiple organ failure... and its probably going to be painful or miserable all the way to the end unless you are medicated with sufficient pain killers.

Blood is like a renewable or sustainable resource after all. The body replenishes after sufficient time depending on diet. It just takes enough care to donate.

If not for some altruistic reason, do it for a selfish reason - that you want other people to owe you and pay you back when you need it.

Another thing, donating blood is a good thing for guys. Eating too much red meat can cause a build-up of iron in the body. This can actually cause your organs to "rust" - iron in large concentrations is an oxidant that causes damage to cells over time. By donating blood, you force the body to regenerate red blood cells at a faster rate - which uses the stored iron.

Finally, most blood donation plans have a point at which you are entitled to free healthcare at any government run institution. In Malaysia, you would have to donate blood every 3 months for 20-30 years to qualify. But after that, its like you've got free health insurance.

David said...


A most interesting post. Bringing attention to the fact that many employers do not give workers consideration for days when blood is donated shows an unusual lack of compassion.

Over here many companies have on site blood drives. This encourages people to give. Such companies most often do allow those who donate blood time off for the remainder of the day.

For companies that employee more than a handful of workers this is part of corporate Goodwill, that is giving something back to the community.

While giving blood is not same as dontating funds or resources, the resource donated when employeees can donate blood during work hours is the donation of that employees time.

Everyone wins. In many countries the national RedCross organization runs most if not all collection of blood for the nation. Along with local, national and International RedCross regulations a safe blood supply is sustained. Over here no one is denied blood when needed, nor must a family find donors.

The practices you describe are commone in smaller nations. I know this is also how the blood supply is handled in the Philippines and other Asian nations.

The cost and expense of collecting, testing, doing quality control, and distrubtion of blood is costly.

That is why donations to the RedCross or agency responsible for blood distrubtion is needed. This of course would not be the case if the government controls the process or allows private blood banks to hande a local blood supply.

Blood donors do need to given short term special consideration. Think of it this way folks, donating blood is donating the gift of life.


Happiness is natural; joy is spiritual.

-- Kenny Martin

cute_boboi said...

It's me again.

To Anonymous,

No, I do not belong/work in any of the SG government or related agencies. This is not about protecting NUH or blood bank. For me, the point replying here is, "please donate blood to help other people and expect nothing in return"


That's a great country/city & company you are in. It's a win-win-win situation for all, with chain effect for the company, employee, blood bank and potential recipient.

Over here, I just tell my boss, I go down 1-2 hours to donate blood, once done, I come up and continue working. I have to remember to drink a few more glasses of plain water than regular for the next few days.

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Yu-Kym said...

cute_boboi, I'm AB+ too! Some people do feel faint or weak after donating blood. That's why I think the compensation for transport can be optional - donors can take it if they want it. How do you get home with your full erection? Won't it be rude to take public transport with a full erection?

May I know which country are you from and what basic privileges do you get in government hospitals?

"Imagine that no one cared enough to donate blood. So you are lying in the hospital bed and told by the doctor that you are going to die - assuming you are conscious." Do you think this person would want to pay people for blood? I say Yes.

"please donate blood to help other people and expect nothing in return" only gets us so far, that is, we are still short of blood.

David, bosses here tend to be picky about time off. Even if employees need only 2 hours off, some bosses will ask them to utilise their annual leave/PTO. I have an ex-colleague who looked clearly unwell (and was later diagnosed with H1N1). Her boss did not allow her to leave immediately though it was almost 5pm but required her to handover her work for the day to another colleague before leaving. I won't expect such bosses to allow employees to take time off to donate blood. But I won't blame only the bosses. Employees are also to blame for skivving and making up stories.

David said...


Attitudes towards blood donations do vary over here.

Many organizations, Churches, schools, community organizations and companies, (mine included), sponsor on site blood drives to make donating blood easier and convenient. Most companies with onsite donations allow employees time off either with pay or as authorized time away.

Not every company allows onsite blood drives.

Employees who make up reasons for sick time will eventually not have enough sick leave when they need the time.

You, are fortunate, being self employed, you set your own work hours.

Of course once your book is published and TV, papers, and cable channels seek you for interviews, your schedule will be a bit tighter.


The greatest battles are fought in the mind.

Author unkown

cute_boboi said...

It's me again...


Replying to your comments below:

So far, based on several hundreds of people that I've met at blood donation drive, I've seen 1-2 people with weak legs, and after some rest (with a cup or Milo), most are well enough to go home vertically by themselves. Well, maybe optional/partial subsidised tranportation is feasible in SG.

I'm from KL :-p and I'm a bit familiar with SG, used to travel down once a month previously. And I'm a bit familiar with NUH, TTS, NCC. In coming future, I am planning a trip to both casinos, USS and family/relatives.

Normally, when there is shortage of blood or emergency, if you contact your friends who are regular blood donors, they can easily call up many more friends for help. So, where do you start ? Start making friends by donating blood and chit-chat with the people there, get contacts. It may be useful also for other purpose, as there are a lot of different types of people there, from contractors, labourers, students, businessman, office worker, religious ppl (you may want to get some amulet for your new house :-p ), etc. Just treat it like networking.