Red Cross halts blood donations in Juneau

Costs of staff, shipping spur change

Posted: Thursday, May 11, 2000

The American Red Cross will stop drawing blood from donors in Juneau because it can't retain nurses, officials said.

The Red Cross will continue to supply blood to Southeast hospitals and will continue its other area services, such as safety and health classes and disaster aid.

Lana Tolls, who directs the Juneau-based Southeast Alaska Chapter, said area residents donated 2,300 pints of blood last year.

``My major concern was this was something the community really liked,'' she said. ``It gave people an opportunity to give their blood back.''

But it was hard to keep a nurse on staff, and expensive to search for and train replacements, said Trudy Sullivan, chief operating officer for the American Red Cross Pacific Northwest Regional Blood Services.

Rising costs to ship donated blood south also were a factor in the decision, she said. The Red Cross is a nonprofit and charges hospitals and insurance companies to recover its collection costs.

``As a nonprofit, we have an obligation to ensure we're doing things that make sense,'' Sullivan said from Portland, Ore.

Since the Red Cross began collecting blood in Juneau about three years ago, nurses have come and gone, and it's taken an average of 11 months to find replacements through nationwide searches, Sullivan said. It costs the Red Cross about $20,000 to find and train nurses, she said.

Meanwhile, in the intervals between permanent hires, the Red Cross had to pay staff in Portland to work and live in Juneau temporarily.

Freight costs also rose $30,000 this year, and that moved it from a borderline break-even operation to losing money, Sullivan said.

The Red Cross stopped collecting blood in Anchorage about two years ago because of similar problems, she said.

The blood collection service is due to end by June 30, the Red Cross said. But the Red Cross is working with Bartlett Regional Hospital to find a way to continue a special service called the autologous donor program, agency and hospital officials said.

The Red Cross paid a nurse to draw blood from people who are planning to have surgery and want to donate their own blood, and from ill people who need to have blood drawn off periodically.

``We clearly want to maintain that program in town,'' said Sheryl Washburn, Bartlett's patient care administrator.

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