State Health Commissioner Novello Urges New Yorkers to Donate Blood to Reverse Critical Shortage

"You Can Make a Difference by Donating Blood Today"

ALBANY, July 11, 2005 – State Health Commissioner Antonia C. Novello today urged New Yorkers to help reverse critical shortages of blood supplies across the state by donating.

"New York's current blood supplies are at critical lows, as a result, the situation is forcing many hospitals across the state to postpone elective surgeries. You can make a difference by donating blood today," 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."

An estimated 60 percent of New Yorkers are eligible to be blood donors, but approximately four percent donate annually. National statistics show that 85 percent of the population in the United States will need a blood transfusion in their lifetime and that someone receives a blood transfusion every ten seconds.

To meet patient needs, the American Red Cross and other blood banks around the State continue to work to maintain a three-day supply of blood for all types. However, recent data suggest that the current supplies of all blood types are below a three-day supply.

Specifically, there is now less than a one-day supply of type 'O' blood in many parts of the state, including the metropolitan New York City area. Without an increase in blood donations over the next two weeks, experts are estimating that there may be a specific lack of O-negative blood and that blood banks will be forced to release supplies to hospitals as it becomes available. Some hospitals across the state have already begun delaying non-emergency transfusions for patients because of the lack of blood and some blood types may be released only after a medical review of the patient's needs.

"Our supplies of some blood types are so low we have been forced to ration distribution to hospitals because we simply don't have enough to go around," explained Dr. Robert Jones, New York Blood Center President & CEO. "We need the community's support and their donations. If donations do not increase in the next two weeks, we foresee an even worsening blood shortage for the remainder of summer."

"We're experiencing a severe blood shortage that can lead to a true public health crisis if not reversed," commented JoAnn Janas, M.D., Associate Medical Director of the American Red Cross Blood Services, New-York Penn Region. "There simply is not enough blood available to continue to meet all routine hospital needs and respond to emergency situations. We are advising hospitals to postpone elective surgery and non-emergent transfusions to patients as a way to conserve supplies. New, dedicated donors are needed to help build regional blood supplies."

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. Donations drop throughout the summer because many regular donors are on vacation or focusing on outdoor activities and recreation.

Those residents living in upstate counties who wish to donate blood are urged to contact the American Red Cross at 1-800-448-3543. In the New York City Metropolitan area, donors may contact the New York Blood Center at 1-800-933-BLOOD (or 1-800-933-2566).