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Shanghai Out for Blood

On January 1, a new city policy will take effect to encourage voluntary donations of blood and lessen the pressure on companies to meet blood-donation quotas set by government.

"Some firms have had to offer lucrative cash incentives to get their employees to donate blood," said Song Qi, spokesman of the Shanghai Blood Administration Office. "Some even turned to 'professional blood sellers' who repeatedly sell their own blood. But such donations are nearly always of a poor quality and are dangerous because they could be carrying communicable diseases like hepatitis B."

Since 1989, all local firms - private, state-owned and joint venture - have been required to donate a total of 58,000 liters of blood annually.

If a firm failed to reach its goal, its employees could encounter difficulties getting blood transfusions.

Under the new policy, companies will be required to have their employees give a total of 46,000 liters of blood, while an additional 12,000 liters will be sought from volunteers.

The individual company quotas will be lessened, which should make it easier for enterprises to meet their targets, blood officials said.

But firms will still be penalized if they fail to meet their quotas, as their workers would have to pay double the usual price for blood. For example, a firm donates 80 liters of blood, but its quota is 100. That means its workers have free access to 80 liters of blood for that year; more than that would cost twice the price for blood.

Shanghai needs 70,000 liters of blood every year, officials said. But it manages to collect only 58,000 liters, including 1,200 from volunteers. To make up for the shortfall, the city purchases blood from other provinces.

Song said that each year, his office usually discovers more than 10 incidents in which blood sellers have been hired to help a firm meet its quota. Last year, six people who organized migrant workers to sell their blood were sentenced to prison.

In addition to stressing that such schemes will lead to punishment, officials plan to launch a public awareness campaign emphasizing its social good.

"Some still believe that it is harmful to their health," said Dr. Wang Ailian of the Shanghai Blood Center.

"In Western countries, three or four of every 100 people donate blood. But in Shanghai, it is three for every 200. We want to educate people that giving blood does not pose a health risk."

(eastday.com December 20, 2001)

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