Health Commissioner Novello Urges New Yorkers to Donate Blood in Face of a Potentially Critical Shortage

American Red Cross Says More Donors Are Needed to Meet Increased Demands

Albany, June 26, 2001 – Citing concerns for a critical blood supply shortage in New York State, Health Commissioner Antonia C. Novello, M.D., M.P.H., Dr. P.H. today urged New Yorkers from across the State to help save lives and avert a critical shortage in blood supplies by donating blood. Commissioner Novello kicked off a State Health Department Blood Drive today at the American Red Cross blood donor room, located in the Empire State Plaza, North Concourse.

"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 tragic traffic accident," Dr. Novello said. "As advances in medicine allow us to live longer and healthier lives, the demand for blood continues to increase. If not addressed, blood shortages can eventually result in canceled elective surgeries and emergency room closures in hospitals."

An estimated 60 percent of New Yorkers are eligible to be blood donors, but approximately four percent donate annually.

To meet patient needs, the American Red Cross and blood bank centers around the State continue to work to maintain a three–day supply of blood for all types. However, recent data suggests that the current supplies of blood for types O and B are below a three–day supply.

There is now less than a one–day supply of type O blood in some areas of the State. Even more critical, if blood donations don't increase within the next two weeks, experts are saying that by the Fourth of July, in specific areas of New York, there may be no inventory of O negative blood and that blood banks will be forced to release supplies to hospitals as it becomes available.

John W. Burch, M.D., Medical Director of American Red Cross Blood Services, New York–Penn Region said, "The Red Cross is grateful for Commissioner Novello's support in the face of a potentially critical blood supply shortage. Starting the Summer vacation season with lower than expected blood supplies underscores the need for a continued response. We are looking for New Yorkers who are in the giving spirit and who are committed to donating blood over the course of their lives."

To reinforce her message, the Health Commissioner today held a press conference to announce this week's State Health Department blood drive at the American Red Cross blood donor room, located in the Empire State Plaza, North Concourse. Dr. Novello urged all Department of Health staff and other state employees to donated their blood this week. State employees may visit the Red Cross donor room between the hours of 8:00 a.m. and 2:00 p.m. today and Thursday, June 28 to make a blood donation.

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 increased 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 donate blood.

Dr. Novello said that people 17 years of age and older, 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.

6/26/01–71 OPA