I recently completed my first blood donation in the Dutch system (and likely my only one, because I’m a study abroad student headed back to the U.S. in less than a month and will not have to opportunity to donate again before I go).
Compared with the relative ease of donating in the US (I walk into a local blood drive, complete the tests in a matter of minutes, donate, and go), I thought the Dutch system had an absurd amount of preliminary steps: I walked into the blood donation center and was told that I needed a separate appointment for testing to determine my general eligibility to donate. But first I needed to fill out a registration card with my contact information. Then, once they got this into the system (I was told it could take up to three weeks), they would call me to schedule an appointment-- I should not call them. Then they called to schedule the appointment, which took place two weeks later. It took about half an hour, and then I had to wait for notice of my eligibility by snail mail-- another four weeks or so passed by before I received that. That notice gave me a date from which I would be allowed to donate for two weeks, and they asked me to please come in within that time and not to skip the donation. The donation itself had the regular on-the-spot preliminary testing that I would have had in the US and took what I considered to be a normal amount of time.
Is this experience typical? What purpose does it serve to test someone weeks in advance if their blood obviously has to be tested on the spot anyway? Doesn’t this process serve as a deterrent to people who want to donate without dedicating time for three separate visits to the donation center?
A note: Given that I found this experience strange, I am considering writing a paper comparing the Dutch and American donation systems, and if I can get enough responses to a donor survey, I will write the paper. If you’ve ever donated blood in the Netherlands, I would very much appreciate your taking about 5 minutes to fill out this questionnaire: http://www.surveygizmo.com/s3/293496/Blood-Donor-Survey-Netherlands
My guess as to the reason for advance testing is that your body doesn’t make antibodies immediately when one is infected - it takes a few days/weeks (depending on the disease.) Notably, for HIV, the number one always hears is that people test negative for about six weeks after they’ve been infected, presumably because there isn’t a detectable antibody response yet. If they test you six weeks before letting you donate for the first time, AND if you haven’t engaged in any behaviors that might expose you to HIV during those six weeks, the tests ought to catch nearly everybody, even the recently infected. Really only the latter point is necessary - if you haven’t been exposed to anybody else’s bodily fluids over the last six weeks, your negative test should be pretty reliable (assuming a low false-negative rate for the test itself), but I suppose putting you through a whole prep period over those six weeks makes you more aware.
That said, it probably seriously drives down the number of donations.
ETA: Go you for donating, even with serious barriers!
Dutch person and blood donor here. Yes, your experience is typical. Reading your post made me wonder about the differences as well, I thougt -of course- that it was this way everywhere. I would be curious about your paper.
It gets easier if you’re a regular donor, though. I am, and while I still have to make an appointment, the pre donation testing is short. Perhaps the Dutch system relies more on regular donors? Or perhaps our system is just worse.
More security for blood donations? And this system is supposed to be worse?
As a regular donor, I’ve got it easier. About 4 or 5 times each year I get a letter that tells me that I can donate. There’s a recommended day and time on it. I pretty much disregard that and walk in when I can. Then I fill out some forms, get a quick check and then they’re happy to drain me.
This is in Rotterdam, by the way. I reckon they’ve got more capacity, and that in smaller towns they actually have to schedule people to optimally use the capacity they have. Having educated people around picking their noses costs money, I believe.
I think in other countries they rely more on “donors of opportunity”. I know that every time I’ve given blood, it’s because the blood people came round my school/job/mall and asked for donations. It’s never occured to me to initiate it myself.
Question-- are you aware of a difference in procedure for male and female donors? I was told (but have not verified) that women are subject to more screening because of a greater likelihood of an iron deficiency.
Not that I’m aware of, no. I’m a woman, and I get tested for iron prior to every time I give blood, and in the past I often got refused because the iron was too low. I don’t know if men get tested for blood iron as well.
The only difference I see is in the questionnaire we have to fill out every time. There are some questions on it that are different for men and women.
FYI, they screen women (maybe men, I’m not sure) in the US for iron issues as well, right before donation, and I have been rejected on the spot for being too low at times (due to unfortunate timing around my menstrual cycle). The American Red Cross tests hemoglobin levels, while my workplace (a hospital) tests hematocrit.
I am a man and I also get tested for iron content every time. My experiences are largely the same as those of Mostlyclueless…
I get a letter that says: please come donate sometime during the 2 weeks from “date” and I go there, fill out the mandatory form (1 1/2 A4), that ask me about any sickness, dental work, travel outside the EU, unprotected sex for drugs/money, (unprotected) sex with men, etc…
Then I go to a little office where they ask what country I’ve been in (just go over the questionnaire), test my iron levels, give the OK and then I can go wait for the main event where they search for an appropriate vein in my left arm, search for an appropriate vein in my right arm, give up, get the resident expert there, who then tells them it’s easy and without really looking hits the right vein and everything goes from there
the first time i donated was precisely the same as my typical donation, only the amount drained was less because it was only for testing.
but this is in a somewhat larger city (Amersfoort) with a permanent blood bank.
I believe that the reason they need your contact information is because (I think) they are required to contact you if there is something wrong with your blood (not for false positives, only for something genuinely wrong).
I think what seems different between the systems is that the Dutch test you first, then let you donate. While the US is willing to take your blood at the same time they’re testing your blood. It’s not that they won’t test you, it’s that they take the blood at the same itme. They won’t use your blood until they get the results back. In the US they may decide that most people who go initially won’t go back for a second appointment to draw blood, and would prefer to get as much blood as possible from people walking through their doors or showing up at the spur of the moment to donate.
GilaB, you may be right, but unless they stress “abstain from sex or remain monogamous until you donate”, it seems a bit more… risky.
that’s where the form comes in… any “risky” sex comes up in the forms.
Furthermore, they test your blood every time you donate (3 test tubes). The test are fairly quick, but not 100% accurate. If anything remotely hinky pops up on the quick test, the blood is rigorously tested for anything, and even if it comes through then, it is still destroyed (if it doesn’t come through, you will be notified IIRC). If your blood has 3 false positives after each other, you will be asked to refrain from donating.
That last thing is what happens in the US. Actually, I think after even one false positive, the blood is denied (at least in certain blood banks). The US people get the same questions about risky behaviors. There is no difference between both countries in what you are writing about.
The thing is, they’re doing one preliminary blood draw, doing tests, and then if passed, the person goes to donate blood (when their blood will be retested). In the US, at least, they skip the first part, and they do the blood testing when the person donates blood. I can see how doing the preliminary first may get rid of some donors (and at least alert them if something is off with them) without them having to give blood. OTOH, doing those preliminary tests (and then retesting when they come for donation) seems expensive and wasteful too. I guess it is a trade-off between the two, and each country has decided to approach donation differently.