Rhesus negative blood
We began by educating expectant mothers on rhesus-negative blood and campaigning for better supplies in private hospitals.
In emergency rooms and maternity care delay in giving red cells is recognised as a significant cause of preventable mortality. For patients suffering from catastrophic haemorrhage it is not uncommon for blood to be needed before a patient’s blood group is known. In these circumstances the safest blood to give is O negative. Most private and many public hospitals in Hong Kong do not carry sufficient rhesus negative blood and use rhesus positive for unexpected life threatening haemorrhage. A small number of rhesus negative patients have antibodies to rhesus positive blood that can lead to a life threatening transfusion reaction. In addition, the use of rhesus positive blood in women of childbearing age or younger could prevent them from having future successful pregnancies.
It is clear that many doctors, being aware of the potential tragic consequences that can arise from giving rhesus positive blood, are likely to delay giving blood until the last moment. Those of us who have worked in emergency rooms can attest that the last moment is difficult to judge and may have fatal consequences.
Lack of rhesus negative blood increases risk to everyone, especially women and children. Whilst we have made progress and some private hospitals now carry a supply of rhesus negative blood this remains a problem in both public and private hospitals and we recommend all patients who are rhesus negative to check that the hospital where they intend to deliver carry a sufficient supply.