- The Washington Times - Sunday, March 18, 2007

The area’s blood supply, which hadn’t rebounded from shortages suffered during the holiday season, has further diminished in recent weeks because of severe weather, health officials said.

“We’ve had to cancel at least 10 blood drives at businesses, schools and universities because they were closed due to weather,” said Teri Scott, senior account manager for Inova Blood Donor Services.

Inova Blood Donor Services, an independent blood bank that supplies 15 hospitals in the District, Maryland and Northern Virginia, is not alone in its struggle to meet hospitals’ needs.

Blood supplies for the region’s Red Cross, which extends from southeastern Pennsylvania to Northern Virginia and includes the District, have not been at levels like these since August.

Jillian Agnew, marketing and communications specialist for Red Cross’ Greater Chesapeake and Potomac region, said the weather combined with the return to work and school after the holiday season has decreased the amount of visits from potential donors, and donations are not the first thing on people’s minds.

The Greater Chesapeake and Potomac region, which serves 65 hospitals from southeast Pennsylvania to Northern Virginia, had half a day’s supply of blood or less for blood types O and B-negative as of Friday.

Ryan Berg, a spokesman for the Red Cross, said the group is well short of its optimum level of at least a five-day supply of each blood type. Blood types O and B are at critically low levels for the region’s blood banks.

The remaining blood types are also in low supply, with a one- to two-day supply. To keep a five-day supply, the Red Cross needs almost 1,000 units daily, and Inova needs 200.

Dr. Karen King, the blood bank medical director for the Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore, told the Red Cross the low supply of blood types O and B are especially important for emergency transplant and trauma patients.

“Without adequate supplies of these blood types, we simply can not treat these patients properly,” Dr. King said.

Officials said only 5 percent of the population donates while 60 percent are eligible.

Normally, Inova and the Red Cross would look for blood supplies from other areas of the country during a slowdown, but the country is currently facing a blood shortage.

Officials said donating blood takes about an hour, and a unit, or pint, of blood is collected from each donor.

Those interested in donating blood can contact the American Red Cross at 1-800-GIVELIFE or Inova Blood Donor Services at 1-866-BLOODSAVES.


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