Red Cross to cut blood supply to Greece

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BLOOD supplies to Greece are being cut after it failed to pay its bills on time, the Swiss Red Cross (SRC) said ­yesterday.

Spokesman for the SRC’s transfusion service, Rudolf Schwabe, confirmed that Greece, struggling with a sovereign debt crisis, had run up debts of several million Swiss francs for blood imports in the past.

Though those debts have since been repaid, the charity said it had decided to halve its blood shipments in the year ahead to limit its financial risk.

Greece’s international creditors have demanded its government cut spending on ­pharmaceuticals as part of bail-out agreements.

The Swiss blood sent to Greece comes from unused emergency stockpiles and is designated for humanitarian use. In the past, the SRC charged Greece five million Swiss francs (£3.5m) to cover its costs for supplying 28,000 blood packets a year.

The Swiss blood shipped to Greece helps meet demand from Greek thalassaemia sufferers. An estimated 3,000 people in Greece with a severe form of this genetic disorder – also known as Mediterranean anaemia – need regular transfusions amounting to some 130,000 packets a year.

“That’s why we had long talks with the Greek health ministry,” Mr Schwabe said. The Swiss will gradually reduce their shipments to Greece to 14,000 packets a year by 2020, while at the same time providing expertise for Greece to develop its own blood donor system, he said. “That way there will be no ­humanitarian problem.”

Greek health officials insisted that Greece had always fulfilled its side of the deal with the Swiss, and the reduction of imports was part of a plan to boost domestic donations, which currently amount to some 670,000 packets a year.