Indonesian Red Cross’ challenge to improve blood services

Dr. Yuyun, Dr. Nakajima and Dr. Linda (from left)

Dr. Yuyun, Dr. Nakajima and Dr. Linda (from left)

Japanese Red Cross Society (JRCS) has been running a training programme for blood programme officers of sister societies in the Asia region since 1978. The aim of the training is to help them develop and expand their blood services. Up to 2012, JRCS has received 392 trainees, and the programme’s impact is gradually making itself felt in each society.

Dr Yuyun SM Soedarmono is one of a growing number of Asian Red Cross Red Crescent blood specialists who are trained in Japan, and has brought about change in Indonesia’s Red Cross blood service. She recently visited JRCS along with Indonesian Red Cross (PMI) colleague Dr. Linda Lukitari in October 2012, as Part of Japanese Red Cross’ training programme, to observe the system of blood collection, testing, processing, storage and distribution.

Learning from Japan

For Dr. Yuyun, this trip was the second time after her first visit to Japan in 2000. She was a trainee and worked with the Japanese Red Cross staff members for three months to learn how the blood donors are recruited, how JRCS maximizes the use of blood, what kind of tests are conducted to improve blood transfusion services etc. . At that time, there were neither mobile blood collection buses nor blood collection rooms in Indonesia so that the donor recruitment in Japan looked innovative for a young trainee.

Four years later after her trip to Japan, she became a director of the Indonesian Red Cross Central Blood Center in 2004 and is now in charge of developing and promoting a national strategy on blood services to 211 blood centers scattered across the nation. She devoted herself to implementing some aspects of the Japanese blood programme, and as a result, a more donor-friendly environment for blood donation was created. A fleet of more than 100 blood collection buses was established; 9 blood collection rooms were put in place (6 in busy areas such as shopping malls and 3 in universities.); and a new screening test to ensure the safety of blood and blood products was introduced in 6 blood centers.

Dr. Yuyun said “the training programme in Japan is very useful and helpful for us. We learn a lot of things such as mobile blood collection operation, production of blood components, donor recruitment, etc. I hope this training programme will be continued.”

Dr. Yuyun enjoyed her reunion with the former trainer at a laboratory department. Young trainees from Thai Red Cross also joined a conversation.

Dr. Yuyun enjoyed her reunion with the former trainer at a laboratory department. Young trainees from Thai Red Cross also joined a conversation.

Reunion with a former trainer

When she re-visited JRCS blood center in Tokyo, she happened to meet her former trainer from whom she learned how to make monoclonal antibody reagent. It was the first time they had seen each other in twelve years. They enjoyed chatting about old times along with two young trainees from the Thai Red Cross Society who are now learning the skills like Dr. Yuyun did 12 years ago.

Challenges Developing Countries Face in Blood Services

While blood for transfusion is 100 per cent procured by voluntary, non remunerated blood donations in Japan, many developing countries are facing a shortage of blood supply. As a result they often rely on paid donors or replacement donors (who donate blood to replace the stored blood when family or relative members need blood for transfusion).

Indonesia is no exception to this problem, and is taking measures to try to increase the number of people who voluntarily contribute to blood donation. Dr. Yuyun’s challenges still remain.