October 10, 2013

As demand dwindles, blood banks make changes

The nation’s blood-collection system has undergone a dramatic change from just a decade ago, when agencies that oversee the blood supply worried whether they could keep up with the needs of an aging population.

By Tom Coyne
The Associated Press

(Continued from page 1)

click image to enlarge

Technician Greg Snyder, right, finishes up a blood draw from Chris Page after he donated blood in an Indiana Blood Center Bloodmobile in Indianapolis recently. The Indiana Blood Center announced in June 2013 that it would reduce its mobile operations, close a donor center and cut other costs because demand from hospitals had fallen 24 percent from the previous year.

The Associated Press

click image to enlarge

The demand for blood is dwindling due to fewer elective surgeries and medical advances that curb bleeding in the operating room.

The Associated Press

“I hope that people don’t read that news and say, ‘Oh, there’s not a need for me.’ Because people need blood every single day,” said Barb Kain, spokeswoman for Blood Systems in Scottsdale, Ariz., which provides blood to hospitals in 18 states.

The Indiana Blood Center recently declared a critical shortage, which Waxman said arose because summer is usually a slower time for donations. The center receives about 30 percent of its blood from high school and college students who are less likely to give during the summer.

Donors at a recent blood-collection drive in Indianapolis say they don’t plan to change their habits.

Chris Page, a 53-year-old military liaison for a job-placement company, said he used to contribute regularly but had not done so in a while. He decided to donate again after learning of a blood drive in his office building.

“There’s always a need, and it’s something that’s replenishable,” he said.

Jim Valmore, a 70-year-old retired electrical engineer from Indianapolis, started donating blood platelets 28 years ago when a secretary where he worked was diagnosed with a brain tumor. He donates every two weeks and has been honored by the Indiana Blood Center for giving 47 gallons of blood.

“I do it just because I can. It doesn’t cost me anything. It takes a little bit of my time,” he said. “It’s like donating to any other cause. To me, it feels good to share what I can share.”

Keeping donors like Page and Valmore in the pipeline is essential even with lower demand. Blood usually has a shelf life of 42 days, and some donated blood typically has to be discarded because of screening issues or other problems.

Kain said the decrease in demand has strengthened the supply line.

“The blood supply across the country is stronger than it has been in a long time,” she said.

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