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Community Blood Services Joins Forces with New Jersey Blood Centers, Legislature, Hospitals For State-Wide Blood Drive Initiative

January 2008

Challenged by Assemblyman Neil Cohen (D, District 20) the seven community blood centers, including Community Blood Services, and hospital-based blood donor services that comprise the New Jersey Blood Bank Task Force have joined forces with 23 hospitals throughout the state to significantly raise the number of units of blood donated in the Garden State.

The month-long statewide effort began on January 7, 2008, with a kick-off blood drive at the New Jersey Hospital Association headquarters in Princeton. A proclamation was issued by the combined Legislature, designating January as New Jersey Volunteer Blood Donor Awareness Month.

The blood centers have partnered with hospitals throughout the state to hold blood drives at the hospitals and to increase participation in hospital donor rooms.

So far Community Blood Services has held or has drives planned withThe Valley Hospital, Trinitas Hospital, Palisades Medical Center, Bergen Regional Medical Center, St. Mary’s Hospital, Meadowlands Hospital, Englewood Hospital, Bayonne Medical Center and Chilton Hospital.

“New Jersey lags behind other states when it comes to meeting the transfusion needs of its citizens,” said Dr. Mercy Kuriyan, head of Transfusion Medicine at Robert Wood Johnson University Hospitals in New Brunswick and the Blood Bank Task Force’s chair. “New Jersey continually faces blood shortages that necessitate importing blood from other areas, which can be problematic, especially if there’s any kind of disaster—natural or otherwise—from one of those areas.” This was the case last winter, when heavy snows closed the Denver airport. Denver is one of the major areas from which blood is imported.

"Donating blood is one of the most generous gifts New Jersey residents can make," said Acting Commissioner of Health and Senior Services Heather Howard. "It is an act that is sure to save lives. I encourage all of our residents who are eligible to make it a point to donate blood."

New Jersey hospital patients use more blood than is collected in our state.

Dr. Mercy Kuriyan continued, “The holiday season and January typically have low blood donor turnout. College and university students, who make up 10 per cent of our donor base, are on semester break throughout the state. The problem is intensified as the flu season takes its toll of normally healthy donors.”

Blood center officials note that in 2006, 72,754 units of blood needed to be imported to meet the needs of patients in New Jersey hospitals. The need to import from other parts of the country has been a trend since 1998. The New Jersey Blood Bank Task Force, the state Department of Health and Senior Services and the New Jersey Hospital Association have been working in concert to close the gap. Continued public awareness and education and the direct involvement of our political, community, corporate and health care leaders in the state can play a major role in reversing this trend.

According to Gary Carter, president and CEO of the New Jersey Hospital Association, “Donations are used to help cancer patients, trauma victims, surgical patients and others in need of transfusions. Truth be told, our state has a dismal track record in blood donations. We routinely have to import blood from out of state to help our neighbors’ right here at home. I’ve seen the good in the people of this state, and I know that we can do better.”

January is National Volunteer Blood Donor Month.

The winter months – and in particular immediately post-New Year – traditionally pose a major challenge for blood collection agencies throughout the country and New Jersey is no exception. National Volunteer Blood Donor Month provides an opportunity to raise awareness as to the importance of volunteer blood donors and the life saving role they play.

Blood center officials note that what makes New Jersey even more vulnerable during January is that New Jersey is dependent on imports from other parts of the country and national shortages will often limit the amount of blood available for resource-sharing.