Sacramento Blood Center curbs weekly donation visit | SierraSun.com
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Sacramento Blood Center curbs weekly donation visit

ANNE GROGAN, Sierra Sun

Despite a current shortage in the nation’s blood supply, the Sacramento Blood Center has announced that it will no longer make weekly visits to Tahoe Forest Hospital to collect blood from community donors.

In a letter sent to repeat donors, the Sacramento Blood Center announced that the community blood donations are being discontinued due to costs.

“The purpose of these weekly mobiles was to collect autologous blood donations for patient surgeries,” the letter said. “For donor convenience, we welcomed community blood donations during these patient collections. Unfortunately, the cost of continuing to cover these specialized collection sites is prohibitive. Keeping the cost of blood as low as possible remains an important goal for patients and hospitals.”

Karen Gargiulo of the Sacramento Blood Center said “we don’t think the cancellation of local drives will have too much effect” on Truckee’s blood supply. Gargiulo said that the current blood shortage nationwide is not affecting the Sacramento Blood Center or the northern California blood supply. Tahoe Forest Hospital receives its blood supply from Sacramento Blood Center.

“We’re doing OK. We’re not canceling any surgeries. But we are at a level where we can’t help other centers. Currently, we just don’t have surplus enough.”

The Sacramento Blood Center supplies whole blood and blood components to 40 hospitals in 17 counties. Gargiulo said the national shortage has not struck these 17 northern California counties because the Sacramento Blood Center was prepared for such a shortage.

“This is traditionally a high use, low donation time. We try to prepare for it and tap into the generosity of our donors.” Gargiulo says that the Sacramento Blood Center annually schedules special events and large blood drives to prepare for the holiday shortage. They then use increased marketing to announce the special events.

She adds, “Elsewhere, storm phenomena has a greater effect than here. We have fog, but its effect (on the blood supply) is not as great as a midwestern blizzard.”

“There is, however, a 13 percent increase in blood usage this year. But the increase has not adversely affected us, except that we cannot help out other centers undergoing shortages,” Gargiulo said.

Anne Knudsen of the Tahoe Forest Hospital laboratory confirmed that community blood donations were held for a final time on Tuesday, Jan. 5. Because the hospital is supplied directly by the Sacramento Blood Center, the hospital is not experiencing blood shortages like hospitals elsewhere throughout the country.

However, the discontinuation of the autologous donations is “one of the things we are quite upset about,” Knudsen said. Autologous donations are those made by individuals for their own use in advance of surgery. Each unit of blood collected in an autologous donation costs the patient approximately $250.

Fifty eight percent of these units are not used as anticipated, at great expense to the patient and the blood supplier. The cost of unused blood is often not reimbursed by insurance companies, Knudsen said.

Locally, individuals interested in autologous blood donations must now travel to Reno, Grass Valley or Sacramento to make donations. Knudsen said that the inconvenience of this increases when considering a patient’s infirmities.

“Federal regulations are so strict, they’re overwhelming. There isn’t any way as a hospital that we can take over,” Knudsen said.

Current federal regulations regarding blood sample testing directly affect the high cost of autologous donations, according to Knudsen.

She adds, however, that the same regulations that have driven costs up are also responsible for the blood supply being considered at its safest since blood sample testing began.

And federal regulations change constantly, continually driving costs higher.

“They’ve got us testing for hepatitis C now, which is very expensive,” Knudsen said.

Though not on a weekly basis, blood donation in the Truckee-Tahoe area will continue, according to Knudsen. Two upcoming drives in Tahoe City are currently scheduled and three in Truckee at the Truckee-Donner Public Utility District building on Donner Pass Road.

The Truckee drives will be May 26, July 28 and Oct. 27. These dates have been scheduled at least eight weeks apart, so individuals can participate in all three.

Donors must be 18 years-old or 17 with parental consent, must weigh 110 pounds, and must be in good health at the time of donation.

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