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Greece losing blood ties with Switzerland

Red Cross' Swiss branch to halve its supply of donor blood by 2020

Meeting payment obligations has been an issue for various Red Cross operations in Greece. Above, Hellenic Red Cross workers demonstrate against unpaid wages in November 2011 (Eurokinissi) Meeting payment obligations has been an issue for various Red Cross operations in Greece. Above, Hellenic Red Cross workers demonstrate against unpaid wages in November 2011 (Eurokinissi) Switzerland, the main exporter of blood to Greece, will halve its supply of donor blood to this country by 2020.

The Swiss branch of the Red Cross (SRC) said on Tuesday that the country has struggled to meet payments in the past, running up debts of several milliion Swiss francs.

Those debts were ultimately repaid, but to prevent future risk, the SRC is reducing the number of blood packets it delivers from 28,000 to 14,000 anually. It signed a contract with the health ministry two months ago that will take effect in 2015.

The SRC's previous contract was worth 5m Swiss francs  (4.1m euros) a year. Its nonprofit transfusion service relies on revenues of 200m Swiss francs to cover collection, analysis, storage and staff costs.

As most other European countries do not export blood, the SRC has considered the shipments of blood pockets to Greece as part of its humanitarian mandate since the 1970s.

The imported blood, which comes from unused emergency stockpiles, assists with high demand caused by the prevalence of thalassemia among Greeks.

Given the disease's 10% incidence rate, the country historically has fallen short in local donations. The genetic disorder requires regular blood transfusions and, moreover, prevents patients from donating blood.

The SRC service said it will now focus on helping Greece improve its own blood distribution service.

"The details are still somewhat murky," reported the International Service of the Swiss Broadcasting Corporation, adding that Greek personnel will most likely receive training in Switzerland.

“We are still discussing what exactly they would like from us,” said the SRC's head of transfusion service, Rudolf Schwabe.

EnetEnglish, AP

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