Senior blood donors: Red Cross replies

I thank Mr Elliot Taylor Hong for his letter ("Incentives can nudge more people to donate blood"; last Saturday).

The selfless and dedicated efforts of our senior blood donors over the years have made a big difference in the lives of those who need it the most, and we welcome them to continue giving blood if their health permits. As long as the person has been donating regularly and is in good health, the person may continue to donate blood up till 70 years old.

We need to be more careful with seniors who decide to donate blood for the first time, as they may be more prone to vasovagal events (like fainting) and other adverse reactions. Therefore, we set the upper age limit at 60 years for first-time donors for their own safety and well-being.

Instead, we encourage these seniors to contribute in other ways, such as becoming a volunteer ambassador at our blood banks.

Every year, we appreciate and celebrate the contributions of our champion blood donors, who have donated more than 25 times, on World Blood Donor Day.

Donors who have given blood for the fifth and 10th time receive medallions at the blood banks as a token of appreciation, to spur them to become champion donors in future.

We thank Mr Hong for his suggestions on improving the donor recognition programme and will take them into consideration.

To ensure blood safety, in Singapore, we practise voluntary non-remunerated blood donation.

This is aligned with the recommendations of the World Health Organisation and the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies.

Just as importantly, voluntary non-remunerated blood donation celebrates the value of altruism and helps to engender a gracious and generous society.

We have, therefore, stopped offering the "green-card system" or the Medical Benefits Scheme since 2002, as we want to encourage donors to give blood voluntarily, without expecting any rewards or incentives.

This helps to safeguard against individuals who may be motivated to withhold important information regarding their medical histories and high-risk activities.

Nevertheless, we have embarked on a number of initiatives to encourage more to take the first step towards blood donation.

These include the inclusion of blood donation in the Total Defence framework and in the mainstream school curriculum, creative campaigns such as the recent #MissingTypeSG, and school-based blood drives.

We hope Mr Hong and our champion donors can help us to inspire and recruit the next generation of blood donors.

Benjamin William

Secretary-General/Chief Executive Officer

Singapore Red Cross

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 07, 2016, with the headline 'Senior blood donors: Red Cross replies'. Print Edition | Subscribe