Health Commissioner Novello Donates Blood and Urges New Yorkers to Join Her to Help Avert Blood Supply Emergency

Albany, June 29, 2000 – Responding to the severe blood supply shortage in New York State, Health Commissioner Antonia C. Novello, M.D., M.P.H., Dr. P.H. today donated blood and urged New Yorkers from across the State to help save lives and avert a blood supply emergency by donating blood as well.

"We are currently experiencing one of the most serious blood shortages in a long time. As advances in medicine allow us to live longer and healthier lives, the demand for blood continues to increase. But without increases in blood donations to meet that demand, it could have a serious detrimental impact on health care in the State and in the region," Dr. Novello said. "My concern is that over the upcoming long Independence Day weekend, we may not be able to meet the increased demand by hospitals for blood supply."

An estimated 60 percent of New Yorkers are eligible to be blood donors, but fewer than five percent donate annually. National Statistics show that nine in ten people will need a blood transfusion in their lifetime.

"Giving blood is safe and easy. I encourage all eligible New Yorkers to join me in showing their compassion, commitment and concern for others by becoming regular blood donors. Let's roll up our sleeves today and get to work to save lives!" Dr. Novello said."When we donate blood, we are giving a precious gift that may be used to save the life of a sick child, a cancer patient or a victim of a traffic accident."

John W. Burch, M.D., Medical Director of American Red Cross Blood Services, New York–Penn Region said, "The Red Cross is grateful for the current blood donor response to the emergency. Starting the four–day long weekend with already low supplies underscores the need for a continued response."

To reinforce her message, the Health Commissioner today donated blood at the American Red Cross blood donor room at the Empire State Plaza. Dr. Novello also announced that this week's State Health Department blood drive successfully collected 99 pints of blood. Dr. Novello thanked all Department of Health staff and other state employees who generously donated their blood.

Dr. Novello said, "I'm very happy to help spread the word about the urgent need to donate blood today. We all should ask ourselves, what if it were a member of my family who needed a transfusion? What if my husband, wife, son, daughter or friend needed blood? What if I were the one who needed blood, and there was none available?"

The demand for blood remains ever–present because of the aging population and the burgeoning need for blood transfusions due to the medical advances in organ transplantation, surgery and aggressive cancer treatment. Replacements are desperately needed as well for longtime donors who, because of ill health or other reasons, no longer can give the blood they used to provide.

People between the ages of 17 and 75, who weigh at least 110 pounds and are in general good health, may be eligible to donate blood. There is a current need for all types of blood. According to the American Red Cross, donations drop throughout the summer because many regular donors are on vacation or focusing on outdoor activities and recreation. That means donations are especially needed during holidays when blood needs continue at typically high rates, but fewer units are donated, and thus available.

It is important to know that all blood and blood products collected in New York State meet or exceed state and federal safety guidelines. A new sterile needle is used for each blood donation and is immediately discarded afterward to ensure the process is safe.

Those residents living in upstate counties who wish to donate blood are urged to contact the American Red Cross at 1–800–272–4543. In the New York City Metropolitan area, donors may contact their local hospital or the New York Blood Center at 1–800–933–2566.

6/29/00–73 OPA