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Blood shortage dire

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June 16, 2003

Albany-- The shelves are nearly empty at the Red Cross Blood Bank in Albany. The distribution center supplies blood to Southwest Georgia hospitals, and right now, workers says they don't have any red blood units to send out Tuesday.

There's not much blood to go around. "Last week it was impossible, we were trying to divide up two and three O-negatives and we had orders for thirty." Dian Swafford is in charge of figuring who gets what, and on a day like today, when only half of the orders from area hospitals have been filled, it's a tough job, "The difficulty is how do you decide which hospital has a bigger need and whose patients are more important then someone else's."

"They have cut back our supplies significantly, we are working at about 60 to 70 percent of our inventory," says Pathologist Dr. Charles Hawkins. Phoebe Putney Hospital, along with the hospitals in Valdosta and Tifton, gets first dibs at the blood, since they have the most need.

But that doesn't mean the big hospitals aren't feeling the pinch. Dr. Charles Hawkins remembers when elective surgeries had to be canceled because of blood shortages, "Right now we are not quite at that point yet but it could easily happen."

What few units the Albany Blood Bank does have are being shipped out. Swafford says, "We have filled orders today, we have filled half that was requested and have nothing for tomorrow." Now, she's hoping the Atlanta blood distribution center can send some units overnight in order to meet Southwest Georgia's needs tomorrow.

To get area hospitals back to optimal level, thirty people with O-negative blood need to donate every day. Right now, the Albany blood bank gets about two or three people a day. Only about eight to ten percent of the population is O-negative, which is the only blood type that everybody can take.

Posted at 3:30 p.m. by melissa.kill@walb.com