Blood Industry Experienced Several ‘Shortcomings’ After Sept. 11, Reports Says
The blood industry experienced several "shortcomings," including "wasted blood" and increased donor screening errors, in the wake of the Sept. 11 attacks on the World Trade Center and Pentagon, according to a report to be presented today to an HHS blood advisory committee by a "task force of blood centers," the Los Angeles Times reports (Ornstein, Los Angeles Times, 1/31). A national sample of one-third of all blood collections in the three months after the Sept. 11 attacks indicates that 191,000 more units of blood were collected than average, according to statistics compiled by the National Blood Data Resource Center (National Blood Data Resource Center release, 1/8). However, the Times reports that at least 111,633 of the extra units were discarded after going unused for 42 days -- the maximum shelf life for stored blood. In addition, the report says that "selected centers" committed twice as many errors as usual. For example, donation center workers in some cases failed to "properly question donors" regarding their health. "Although most of these errors did not compromise the safety of the collected units, any increase in error rates is cause for concern," the report said. The report also cautioned against "donor confusion and disenchantment," the Times reports. "What we're very concerned about is having (donors) look and say, 'You had plenty of blood and you didn't really need all the blood for the emergency,'" Karen Lipton, CEO of the American Association of Blood Banks, said. According to the Times, the report also cites financial losses associated with the superfluous collection of blood. The task force cited two "lessons learned" from the response to the Sept. 11 attacks: "Don't collect more blood than can be used and ensure that all blood centers have adequate supplies on hand to respond to disasters at any time" (Los Angeles Times, 1/31).
The American Red Cross, in particular, was "mired in criticism" after as much as 20% of the "at least 250,000 and perhaps as much as 400,000 extra pints in the month after the attack" were destroyed (California Healthline, 11/12/01). Alan Ross, vice president of technical operations for the Red Cross, said, "Criticism about the discarded units is 20-20 hindsight" (Los Angeles Times, 1/31).This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.