San José, Costa Rica, since 1956
Health matters

Costa Rican hospitals call for blood donors

Blood donations in Costa Rica decreased 10 percent in the last three months, leading to critical shortages at hospitals, according to Ileana Balmaceda, executive president of the Social Security System, or Caja.

“Our country needs some 80,000 blood donors annually to meet the needs of patients and to keep a reserve. But only 40,000 people donate annually,” she said.

Erna Meléndez, director of the National Blood Bank, also warned that only 50 percent of the blood used in hospitals nationwide is received through voluntary donations, while the other half is obtained from relatives and friends of patients.

“We currently don’t have reserves for a possible emergency. You can see the empty chairs at the Blood Bank. People are not coming to donate,” Meléndez said.

The shortage coincides with the months in which more blood is needed because Christmas time usually sees an increase in accidents and other emergencies.

The National Blood Bank will hold blood drives in various parts of the country beginning on Wednesday at the Caja’s main facilities in downtown San José.

On Nov. 24, the Caja will receive donations at the Catholic Church of Tibás (northwest of San José) and Nov 25. in Cariari, in the Caribbean province of Limón.

Donors also can give blood Monday through Saturday at the National Blood Bank in the southeastern San José district of Zapote.

Contact L. Arias at

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