The American Red Cross is raising the prices it charges hospitals for blood by as much as 35 percent starting July 1.
The increase by the nonprofit agency, which supplies half of the nations blood, will range from 10 percent to 35 percent, depending on the region.
“The main reason is to make sure we have the investment dollars to build the blood centers in the future to ensure availability,” said Jacquelyn Fredrick, senior vice president of biomedical services at the Red Cross.
The increase is needed to pay off roughly $300 million in debt the agency has racked up while keeping up with technology and building new donation centers. The money also will go toward recruitment and beefing up advertising aimed at voluntary donors, the Red Cross said yesterday.
Hospitals typically pay $130 to $150 per pint of blood; the increase would lift the price as much as $200 per pint.
“Our costs have done up 27 percent in the last five years, whereas prices have gone up 9.9 percent,” Ms. Fredrick said.
The increase will primarily affect hospitals costs for red blood cells. Prices for other blood products, such as platelets and plasma, will stay the same or decline slightly.
The Red Cross serves some 3,000 hospitals nationwide and has an annual operating budget of about $1.7 billion.
Jackie Bright, blood bank supervisor at Howard University Hospital, said she “was going to cry” over the price increase.
“They are our supplier of blood and blood products, and we use a lot. I mean, I transfuse about 6,000 to 7,000 units of blood and blood products a year,” she said. “And if we get a 35 percent increase — thats an impact on the budget, on this hospital.”
Ms. Bright had not received notification of the move.
The Red Cross blood supply comes from volunteers who donate at Red Cross blood banks or at employer blood drives. The agency gives donors small gifts, such as movie passes, at blood drives.
Demand for blood has increased as the population ages and doctors perform more blood transfusions and organ transplants because of new medical discoveries. However, the number of donors has remained the same, about 5 percent of the population.
“Right now we produce 6.5 million units of blood a year,” Ms. Fredrick said. “But the demand for patients is increasing, and we have set a goal to collect 9 million units within the next five years so that we can meet patient needs in the future.”
Robert Jepson, spokesman for Adventist HealthCare, said the chains two local hospitals, Shady Grove Adventist in Gaithersburg and Washington Adventist in Takoma Park, are prepared to meet a 24 percent increase.
“Were anticipating in the cost of blood,” he said. “Its something that we have been anticipating, and well continue to maintain the volume of blood supply that we need to continue to care for our patients.
“We dont anticipate much of a problem,” he said. “It has some financial impact, but its but something we are fully prepared to deal with.”
Hospitals such as Childrens National Medical Center and Veterans Affairs Medical Center in the District are not affected because they have their own blood banks.
So does the Inova HealthCare chain, which has five hospitals in Northern Virginia; it also supplies blood to three hospitals in Virginia, two in Maryland and one in the District.
Terri Craddock, director of Inovas Blood Donor Services, says a price increase in understandable considering the inflation in the medical industry.
“For us its not so much the screening process but the recruitment cost or the marketing cost. Getting that donor in the door.”
In an attempt to attract more donors, the Red Cross yesterday started a $2 million advertising and telephone campaign aimed at attracting old and new donors.
An additional strain on the Red Cross blood supply will come in September, when the organization plans to ban donations from people who have spent as little as three months in Britain or six months anywhere in Europe in the past 21 years.
Agency officials hope the ban will ensure that donated blood is not tainted by the human form of mad cow disease, a brain-wasting illness also known as bovine spongiform encephalopathy that has ravaged Europe.
The disease spreads among livestock that are fed the ground remains of other infected cattle, according to researchers.
People catch the human form of the disease, new variant Creutzfeldt-Jakobdisease, by eating beef from infected cattle, researchers believe. The virus turns the brain spongelike, eventually robbing its victims of the ability to speak and think clearly.