SIBU, June 10 — Having more blood transfusion specialists serving in Sarawak would facilitate the screening of donated blood so that it could be optimised in treating diseases, said Dr Nizam Ishak.

In this regard, the Sibu Hospital deputy director expressed hope that more such specialists would be sent to serve in the state.

“Sarawak with its multiple ethnicities has many blood donors with special blood types that can help to treat diseases.

“With more blood transfusion specialists, they can screen and identify these blood donors and optimise the use of their blood to treat diseases not just in the country but also the world,” he told reporters when met after the World Blood Donor Day celebration here yesterday.

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According to him, Sarawak currently only has five blood transfusion specialists: Two in Kuching and one each in Sibu, Bintulu and Miri.

Sibu Hospital blood transfusion specialist Dr Syazwana Syirin Ibrahim, who was also present, said her tests had found many special blood types from donors here.

“There are only a handful of special or rare blood types in the country. One of them is from an Iban male donor from here who has Kidd phenotype blood, or more specifically the Jk (a-b-) phenotype, from the subtype of the ABO blood group.

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“In Malaysia, we have less than 2 per cent of donors having this rare blood type. His blood is not used just in Sarawak but we have also sent it to a dialysis patient in Likas, Sabah and children at the National Blood Centre at Tunku Azizah Hospital in Kuala Lumpur,” she said.

Dr Syazwana added they also need Rhesus (Rh) negative blood type which can be used for many patients who need blood transfusion.

On Rh17 which is one of the rarest blood types, she said Sibu used to have one or two donors but due to unhealthy lifestyle, these donors could no longer donate blood.

Rh17 is a blood type which can be found among a small number of Bidayuhs in Sarawak.

“So whenever we need Rh17 blood especially for Thalassemia patients, we will seek help from Sarawak General Hospital to find us a donor,” she said.

Both Dr Nizam and Dr Syazwana urged regular blood donors — the majority of whom are aged 30 and above — to maintain a healthy lifestyle.

“Donors under the age of 30 are becoming less. We are worried about the current generation of donors because when they reach a certain age, they can no longer donate blood.

“We are also worried for Generation Z and Generation Alpha as blood donors because their lifestyles have changed. The use of drugs and other factors disqualify them from donating blood.

“In Peninsular Malaysia, the problem is these younger generations are eager to donate blood but we cannot accept them because their blood is contaminated due to their unhealthy lifestyle,” Dr Nizam said.

Meanwhile, Dr Syazwana commended blood donors in Sibu for their generosity.

“In Sibu alone, there are more than 80 per cent regular blood donors compared to 65 per cent in Peninsular Malaysia. But we still need a new generation of blood donors despite having a high number of regular donors.”

Earlier, organising chairperson Dr Rachel Teng said Sibu Hospital collected 8,671 units of blood last year through walk-ins and mobile donations.

She also said Sibu registered 86.5 per cent of regular donors last year, an increase from 83.7 per cent in 2022.

Officiating yesterday’s event was Lanang MP Alice Lau, who was joined by Malaysian Red Crescent (MRC) Sarawak chapter assistant director Ng Pei Sze, MRC Sibu chairman Penghulu Chua Hiong Kee, Bukit Assek assemblyman Joseph Chieng and Temenggong Datuk Vincent Lau. — The Borneo Post