Growing with new challenges

A year rich in highlights, but also in challenges: 2023. Many things are changing – socially, technologically, politically. Going to donate blood may once have been something “one” simply did, the honourable thing to do – but these days a lot more effort is required to educate and persuade young people to register as a blood stem cell donor or to become a blood donor. Increasing digitalisation is opening up new opportunities for cooperation and ways to increase process efficiency. At the same time, though, requirements and the amount of resources necessary to meet them –within the organisation and from outside of it – are also increasing, for example in relation to data privacy. We view these challenges as opportunities for further development, as opportunities to learn and grow together.

Swiss Transfusion SRC is an autonomous organisation within the Swiss Red Cross that is structured as a non-profit-making company limited by shares (gemeinnützige Aktiengesellschaft). The majority of its shares are owned by the SRC; the remaining 49 per cent are held by the eleven regional blood transfusion services (RBSD). Along with the RBSD, Swiss Transfusion SRC is responsible for managing the blood supply on behalf of the SRC. It also holds a mandate from the Swiss Government to manage the registry of blood stem cell donors. No funding is provided for expanding the registry, however. Swiss Transfusion SRC has to rely on monetary donations to meet those costs.

Future challenges

The regional blood transfusion services are subject to ever more demanding requirements with regard to the testing of donated blood for viruses and new pathogens. This, while the demand for blood products from hospitals is continually falling.

A further challenge involves the supply of blood products to patients from other parts of the world (particularly those from Africa or Asia). Since the markers that determine blood group are present in different frequencies in different regions of the world, there is not always sufficient blood available in Switzerland for these patients. For this reason, the project “Support-your-community” aims to raise awareness of blood donation among people with an immigration background in Switzerland and encourage them to donate.

The target for the area of blood stem cell donation is to get the number of new registrations per year back up to 10,000 or higher. It is important to prevent the registry from becoming “too old” and to make up for the numbers of individuals removed from the registry on health grounds or due to age, so the primary target group has been defined as young people under the age of 30. The “registry clean up” strategy, first launched in 2022, is being implemented in a targeted fashion, which involves regular requests to verify or update contact details, health status and personal availability for a concrete blood stem cell donation. That the number of collection procedures performed on donors in Switzerland has risen continually over recent years can be viewed as an indication of the success of this strategy, with its clear focus on quality.

Another flagship project is the Auxin project, which was started in 2020 and is on track towards digital transformation. The first release of the new Omnia software will go live in January of 2024.

Swiss Transfusion SRC staff

From the human resources perspective, our organisation showed itself to be stable in 2023. “Adaptation” was a recurring motif in the first year after our move to the new location, as the staff grew accustomed to the new working environment and the cultural adjustments associated with it, which involved closer and more flexible cooperation. We were able to fill the vacant positions satisfactorily. Only with regard to the recruitment of IT staff did the skills shortage make itself felt. HR milestones in 2023 were the introduction of the new Profilplus software, which uses employee “life cycles” to support collaboration among supervisors, employees and HR, and the revision of salary guidelines and other HR processes.

Key HR metrics for 2023

Number of employees (as of 31 Dec. 2023): 61 permanent employees (down two from 2022), corresponding to a total of 46.1 FTE (down 1.8 FTE from 2022). The FTE figure includes two commercial apprentices. A total of 89 per cent of all personnel work on a part-time basis (up 9 per cent), with the average employee FTE coming in at 75 per cent. Average age among the employees is 46, their average length of service is 5.8 years.

Voluntary turnover rate for 2023: This rate was 9.6 per cent (2022: 8.9 per cent), which is within the range associated with a healthy workforce renewal (8–12 per cent – source: weka, 2021 survey). Overall, the turnover rate for 2023 was 14.3 per cent (incl. departures associated with two retirements and one temporary appointment).

Absence rate for 2023: Calculated as a percentage of regular working hours, total hours of absence due to illness/accidents/medical appointments amounted to 2.5 per cent (up 0.04 per cent from 2022). This figure, almost unchanged since 2022, is distinctly below the Swiss average for health-related absences of 4.1 per cent (Source: bfs, 2022 survey, publ. May 2023).

Employee satisfaction: Another employee satisfaction survey (Ambiometer) was conducted in the spring of 2023 (previous survey: 2020). Among other things, the results should reflect the level of satisfaction with the new working situation six months after the relocation. The response rate was gratifyingly high, at around 90 per cent. The survey results present an extraordinarily positive picture: general job satisfaction came in at 91%, satisfaction rates for sub-fields of work ranged from 67 to 100 per cent. When the survey was conducted, 96 per cent of employees reported that they would decide in favour of taking up a position at Swiss Transfusion SRC again. The analysis of the content of the employee interviews further substantiated the positive results from the written survey.

Amendment of the Swiss Therapeutic Products Act

The National Council and the Council of States acted as follows with regard to the parliamentary initiative to amend the provisions on blood donation in the Swiss Therapeutic Products Act in three respects:

The principle of the non-remuneration of blood donation in Switzerland has been enshrined in legislation.

The proposal that the Confederation provide “financial support” in accordance with the Subsidies Act was rejected, as blood/products made from blood are therapeutic products.

Non-discrimination among blood donors, for example on the basis of sexual orientation, has been enshrined in legislation. Swiss Transfusion SRC implemented the ban on discrimination as of 1 November 2023.

New data protection legislation: more protection for personal data

The new Federal Data Protection Act, enacted in order to better protect personal data, came into force in Switzerland on 1 September 2022. The legislation modifies data protection standards to reflect technological developments, strengthens self-determination with regard to personal data and increases transparency in connection with the collection of personal data. Prior to the introduction of the new legislation, Swiss Transfusion SRC, which has always considered data privacy to be of particular importance, subjected all of its processes to another thorough review with the aim of ensuring that they continued to provide for the security of the personal data of both patients and donors at all times.

As part of the review of the technical aspects of data protection and data security, the IT systems were subjected to another penetration test, and steps were taken to further optimise IT security. Employees are undergoing intensive training and regularly receive test messages, in order to ensure that they are alert to the importance of dealing with problematic requests correctly and safely. All activities of relevance to information security and data protection are regularly identified in an accountability report submitted to the Federal Office of Public Health (FOPH), which is the agency responsible for the Swiss registry of blood stem cell donors. The regional blood transfusion services are responsible for the data of blood donors and transfusion recipients, as well as for the security of this data.

Swiss Transfusion SRC management

There were no changes in the management team in 2023.

To the overview

“The right donation at the right time for every patient – our vision, which guides us in making the right decisions. In a field in which the challenges are growing ever larger, we draw new motivation every day from the lives and stories of the patients and donors. Together with our staff and our national and international partner organisations, we are overcoming these hurdles – always with one clear objective in mind: saving lives.”

From the left: Soraya Amar, Oliver Kürsteiner, Anita Tschaggelar, Rahel Vaterlaus, Bernhard Wegmüller, Franziska Kellenberger, Felix Bussmann, Gayathri Nair

Swiss Transfusion SRC Board of Directors

At the general meeting on 11 May 2023, Isabelle Chassot, Member of the Council of States, was elected to the position of President of the Board of Directors of Swiss Transfusion SRC. She replaces Prof. Dr. Thomas Zeltner, who had held this position since 2012.

Thanks to Thomas Zeltner’s great experience in both the health sector and the policy arena, we always managed to find solutions and compromises even when problematic issues were involved.

We wish him all the best in his new role as the President of the Swiss Red Cross (SRC) and look forward to working with him further within that organisation.

The Board of Directors reports another change in its membership as of 31 December 2023, when Otto Bitterli resigned from the Board. He was replaced by Dr. med. Christoph B. Egger as of 1 January 2024.

To the overview