Greece so broke the Red Cross has stopped supplying it with blood

A pedestrian walks by as a homeless man sleeps on a metro air vent above an underground station to warm up as at the background a huge Greek flag is seen in Omonia Square, central Athens, on Tuesday, Feb. 26, 2013. Greece’s annual gross domestic product is set to contract by 4.5 percent this year, the report said, which matches revised government forecasts. Successive tax hikes and state spending cuts have pushed unemployment up to 27 percent, according to data for last November, while 61.7 percent of workers under age 24 are jobless. Credit: AP

BERLIN (TheBlaze/AP) — The Swiss branch of the Red Cross says it is cutting its supply of donor blood to Greece because the country has failed to pay its bills on time.

The head of the Swiss Red Cross’ transfusion service says the number of blood packets delivered to Greece will be halved to 14,000 by 2020.

Rudolf Schwabe on Tuesday confirmed Swiss media reports that Greece had run up debts of several million Swiss francs (dollars) in the past.

Those debts have been repaid but Schwabe says the non-profit SRC took the decision to limit its financial risk.

The Swiss blood sent to Greece comes from unused emergency stockpiles. It helps meet high demand in Greece caused by the prevalence of thalassemia, a genetic disorder whose carriers need regular blood transfusions.

Swissinfo.ch has more on the need for blood in Greece:

Annual shipments of around 28,000 blood pockets to Greece have been considered part of the SRC’s humanitarian mandate. Around ten per cent of the Greek population suffers from thalassaemia, an inherited blood disorder that results in the excessive destruction of red blood cells. This in turn leads to anaemia.

People suffering from thalassaemia cannot donate blood, so the Greek authorities rely on Swiss imports to make up for blood shortfalls, given that most European countries do not export. Some patients require transfusions every three to four weeks, often relying in Greece on family and friends as donors.

However, two months ago, the Swiss transfusion service signed a new contract with the Greek health ministry that will become effective in 2015 and will see the number of blood pockets delivered eventually halved from 28,000 by 2020.

The United States used to also purchase blood from the Swiss but stopped that practice in the 90s when mad cow disease struck.

​This story has been updated.