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Blue skies for a Red Cross blood centre and a new Thai HQ.

New Blood Centre Set To Save Lives

Monday, December 17, 2007
A REGIONAL blood centre is coming to Phuket to save the lives of locals and tourists, thanks to Henry Dunant.

His big idea was so good that it deserved to be bottled, and that's just about what's happening on the island next.

Dunant originated the concept of a Red Cross back in 1859, and since then the Swiss voluntary organisation has spread and grown like clockwork to include Red Cross or Red Crescent societies in 186 countries.

Now, as a positive and lasting effect of the 2004 tsunami, Phuket is going to gain a Regional Blood Centre, thanks to Dunant and a few thousand others who continue to keep his good idea working brilliantly.

Another benefit soon to be seen in action on Phuket will be a better sea rescue service for when ferries or speedboats get into trouble, as they do inevitably.

Construction of the centre is due to begin in early 2008. It's the second big Red Cross building project on the island in recent times.

The advent of the Regional Blood Centre should help to ease the problems individual hospitals have often had in meeting the needs of people with unusual blood groups.

And a major incident, like the air crash at Phuket in September 2007, inevitably puts local blood supplies to the test. Tourists obviously benefit, along with residents.

In Phuket's case, it's the flying Finns who will put the finishing touches, appropriately enough, to Dunant's magnificent concept.

Ritva Lahti, the country co-ordiantor for Finish Red Cross, helped Phuketwan with an explanation: ''The Regional Blood Centre will operate the same way that National Blood Centre in Bangkok does.

''It will recruit voluntary blood donors, collect the blood, test it, produce the various blood products and send them to the provincial hospitals.

''When it is done in larger scale it will safer than by doing it individually in each hospital, more reliable testing methods will be used (they are expensive so hospitals may not be able to afford them individually).

''The blood products are for the population in all the six Andaman Sea provinces, approximately two million people. The biggest consumers of blood are the victims of traffic accidents that very commonly occur in Thailand.''

Several Red Cross societies work in Phuket.

As well as the Thai Red Cross Society, which has a new HQ being built in Phuket City, Finnish Red Cross, French Red Cross, American Red Cross and the International Federation of the Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies all have a presence on the island.

''Finnish Red Cross came to Thailand in December 2004 to assist the Finnish tourists who had been affected by tsunami,'' Phuketwan was told.

''We stayed on to help the Thai people who had suffered in tsunami. Our office was based in Phang Nga until June 2007, when we moved to Phuket.''

Finland is a small, cold Nordic country and as a group they have come to appreciate the Andaman coast. It's a connection with a sad side.

A total of 184 Finns died in the tsunami, a figure that ranked only behind the 548 Germans and 543 Swedes, the Thais who make up the majority of the 5395 victims, and the Burmese, whose numbers are still uncertain.

''The money for the tsunami operation has been donated to Finnish Red Cross by the Finnish citizens who were touched by the suffering of Thai people,'' said Khun Ritva. '

'Some money also came from the Finnish Ministry for Foreign Affairs and the Ministry of Interior.''

Phuketwan kept asking questions:

Why did you choose to base the office on Phuket?
''We moved our office to Phuket because the focus of our work has moved to Phuket. We finished the hospital renovation and equipment donation project in Phang Nga province in April 2007 and will start building the Regional Blood Centre in Phuket in early 2008, together with Thai Red Cross Society.''

How different are you and Thai Red Cross in town?
''There is officially only one Red Cross in each country, and in Thailand it is the Thai Red Cross Society. Thai Red Cross Society has a chapter in every province in Thailand, also in Phuket. We have the same principles that we follow in our work. Finnish Red Cross is assisting and working in close cooperation with Thai Red Cross Society both in Bangkok and in all six Andaman Sea provinces (Phuket, Phang Nga, Krabi, Ranong, Trang and Satun).''

What are the plan for Red Cross?
''We have two main areas of work in Thailand -- Health and Sea Rescue. In Health we work especially in blood transfusion services: we assist Thai Red Cross provincial chapters in recruiting voluntary non-remunerated blood donors by supporting a Blood Coordinator in each province and we will construct a full-range Regional Blood Centre in Phuket in cooperation with Thai Red Cross National Blood Centre.

''In Sea Rescue we work with Thai Red Cross Society, Norwegian and Swedish Red Cross in training volunteers in First Aid (funded by Swedish Red Cross), training volunteers in Sea Rescue (funded by Norwegian RC) and setting up Sea Rescue Stations and supplying them with necessary IT and telecommunication equipment (funded by Norwegian and Finnish Red Cross).

''The first pilot stations will be set up in Krabi and Phang Nga provinces. The aim is to have dedicated and well-trained volunteers to assist the Thai authorities in assisting and rescuing people at sea, for example, in boat accidents.''

Could you tell us about the blood bank project? What is is to be called?

''We are establishing regional blood service delivery for the six Andaman Sea provinces and constructing a Regional Blood Centre in Phuket. The purpose is to ensure safe and adequate blood supply in all the six Andaman Sea provinces.

''When the Centre is ready and fully equipped, we will donate it to Thai Red Cross Society who will operate it.''

Architects are at work on the centre right now and the budget is being organised. That's another one we owe you, Henry. Thanks.

Finnish Red Cross is at www.redcross.fi

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