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Lehigh Valley

Local centers shift methods as the blood industry shrinks

Local centers shift methods as the blood industry shrinks

BETHLEHEM, Pa. - According to a new report, medical advancements have led to a drop in blood transfusions.

While this is good news for patients, some blood centers are hemorrhaging jobs as a result.

There is still a huge need for people to donate blood, only now some of the tests provided locally on that blood will be sent elsewhere.

Because of medical advancements like laparoscopic surgery, blood transfusions are on the decline, a one third drop in just five years.

As a result, hospitals are paying less for units of blood because they are using less of it.

According to the New York Times, the ripple effect is being felt at blood centers across the country.

And a wave of mergers and roughly 12,000 job cuts are anticipated.

But here in the Lehigh Valley change is happening for a different reason.

Dr. Kip Kuttner, Miller Keystone Blood Center director in Bethlehem says the amount of blood it provides for transfusions has remained constant.

But the federal mandate to bring medical costs down is prompting Miller Keystone to make changes in the way it tests more than 100,000 units of blood a year.

"Sometime in the fall we are going to be outsourcing our infectious disease testing... That will mean some job losses," said Kuttner.

Kuttner says roughly five of his 25 lab positions are being eliminated.

He says just because the non profit is tightening its belt, however, doesn't mean there is no shortage of blood.

He says the perishable lifesaver is in greater demand than ever for the 26 hospitals Miller Keystone services on a daily basis, especially for platelets.

"There is a constant need for platelets. They only have a five day shelf life and they spend two days in testing and [quality control] with us. So every two days we are delivering platelets to the local hospital for cancer treatment and premature babies," said Debra Otto, donor resources director.

Miller Keystone is exploring new services to help is bring down it's bottom line

There is still a huge need for people to donate blood, especially since the baby boomers, the largest donation group, are aging and may not be able to donate.

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