MMH blood bank to close

Memorial Health System’s blood bank-one of the last remaining independently run blood banks in the state-will be halting operations within the next few weeks.

Jennifer Offenberger, director of marketing and public relations for the Memorial Health System, confirmed Wednesday that Aug. 10 will be the last day blood donations are accepted for the blood bank.

The hospital has already informed active donors of the change and encouraged them to continue donating through a new source, said Offenberger.

“We sent a letter to them in June announcing the change, thanking them for their ongoing support and reminded them there will continue to be a significant need,” she said.

Offenberger cited the increasing testing requirements and associated rising costs of blood processing as the catalyst for the hospital reevaluating its independent blood bank.

“The cost to do (the testing) has nearly doubled in the last few years,” she said.

Purchasing blood through the American Red Cross will actually save the hospital money, said Offenberger.

Additionally, the hospital’s blood supply will not be affected, she emphasized.

The American Red Cross, which provides 40 percent of the national blood supply, already makes blood deliveries to Parkersburg on a daily basis, said Marianne Spampinato, external communication manager for American Red Cross, Greater Alleghenies Blood Services Region.

The Greater Alleghenies region currently services approximately 80 hospitals that serve 100 counties throughout Ohio, West Virginia, Pennsylvania, Kentucky, Virginia, and Maryland, she said.

The agency already supplements Memorial Health System’s blood supply, said Offenberger.

The trend of hospitals moving away from independent blood processing is not new, added Spampinato, who has been with Red Cross for more than 30 years.

“It’s been a trend because of the way regulations have evolved over time,” she said.

By joining with Red Cross, the Memorial Health System will become part of a vast network of resource sharing, said Spampinato. That means that in the event of a local emergency, Marietta would be able to pull from a national network.

The Greater Alleghenies Blood Services Region is one of 36 Red Cross blood service regions throughout the country. It services 2,700 hospitals and requires approximately 15,000 blood donations per day to do so.

Red Cross officials say they hope Marietta Memorial’s donor base will continue donating through their organization. The organization has an upcoming blood drive scheduled from noon to 5 p.m. Tuesday at Walmart at 804 Pike St.

Longtime trainer Joe Gray, of Devola, said he was saddened to learn of the closure of the program.

“I’ll give my last pint to the hospital next month,” said Gray, who has like clockwork donated a pint every other month since 1966.

Gray specifically cited Memorial’s bloodmobile as a unique feature which had made it easy for the community to give blood.

The fate of the large traveling blood donation center is still undetermined, said Offenberger. The bus is nearly 15 years old, she added.

“Our resource management team will assess the bus and decide if it’s something me might want to sell,” she said.

The hospital hopes to still find ways to make donating blood as convenient as it has been in the past, said Offenberger. The hospital will work with Red Cross to host blood drives at its various campuses, she said.

“So for our community and our employees, who are large donors to the program, we’ll be making it convenient for employees and donors to come here,” she said.

Though he was disappointed to hear of the closure of a program he loved, Gray will not discontinue his donations any time soon.

“I hope the Red Cross has something set up that is just as convenient…As long as I’m healthy I’ll continue giving blood,” he said.

Those who want to donate blood at Marietta Memorial can continue to do so through Aug. 10 by setting up an appointment through the blood bank by calling 373-1014, said Offenberger.

Red Cross blood drives can easily be found by entering a zip code at redcrossblood.org or by calling 1-800-RED-CROSS, added Spampinato.