Hospitals have been ordered to cancel all pre-planned surgery for the next four to five days due to a severe decline in blood donations, it emerged tonight.
The Irish Blood Transfusion Service (IBTS) issued the directive after its donations fell below the minimum of 3,000 units required every week.
“This is a problem that has arisen over recent months despite intense effort by the organisation to increase the number of people visiting clinics,” said a spokeswoman.
She said the service would keep the order to halt pre-planned (elective) surgery under review.
Hospitals will be able to carry out emergency surgery.
Around 200,000 people came to the IBTS clinics around the country last year to donate.
Last week, IBTS Donor Services Manager Kieran Healy told the Press Association that the service was struggling to meet the blood donation targets due to a number of factors including the stringent regulations introduced to protect against contracting the human form of mad cow disease, vCJD.
The number of donations has also been affected by the recent good weather and Bank Holiday weekends.
There are currently just 1,885 units of blood in stock, with large shortages of all major blood types.
However, the IBTS said it wanted a regular stream of donors rather than a one-off rush.
“We need a constant and regular supply. If we get an overwhelming response, the capacity we have to absorb it is limited in a short space of time,” said the spokeswoman.
The IBTS confirmed that 60% of regular donors give blood once a year, 27% donate twice yearly, 11% visit three times and 1% donate four times a year.