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City blood bank short on deposits

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U.S. Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) said Sunday only 2 percent of New York City residents donate blood and warned the Food and Drug Administra­tion’s recent recommendation to place more restrictions on donations will exacerbate the current shortage.

“Queens is very under-represented in terms of people donating blood,” said Susan Lingenfelter, the Queens donor recruitment manager for the New York Blood Center, the city agency that oversees the collection of blood.

At a news conference Sunday, Schumer asked the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services to declare a blood shortage for both New York City and Long Island.

Each year there are 50,000 units of blood distributed throughout Queens, Lingenfelter said, although only 15,000 units are collected from donors. She said she expected a drop in the number of donors this week because of the July 4th holiday.

“This is an emergency that threatens basic patient safety,” Schumer said while waiting to donate blood at the New York Blood Center. “Our blood supply in New York was critically low before the FDA advisory panel recommended a ban on blood from Europe, and this recommendation takes us from bad to worse.”

Only 2 percent of eligible New Yorkers donate blood, Schumer said. Recently the FDA recommended that Britain be excluded from its pool of suppliers, a measure the agency said would eliminate the risk of such blood being contaminated with the human version of Mad Cow disease, acquired through the consumption of meat that has been infected.

The restrictions would extend as far as excluding blood donations from people who traveled to or lived in Britain for three months between 1980 and 1996 as well as anyone who lived in a European country for five years from 1980 until now. All told, the elimination of such blood would cut New York City’s supply by about 25 percent, or by 150,000 units, Schumer and Lingenfelter said.

Dan Andrews, a spokesman for Queens Borough President Claire Shulman, said the borough president’s office recently held a blood drive in late June. He said attendance this year, comprised largely of court officers from nearby State Supreme Court in Kew Gardens and Borough Hall employees, was good.

Dario Centorcelli, a spokesman for Elmhurst Hospital, said the hospital has been active in holding blood drives as well.

Schumer also made recommendations about dealing with the city’s blood shortage. Among them were calling for an immediate $10 million campaign to be funded by the Department of Health and Human Services to promote blood donation; to declare a blood shortage emergency in New York; and to offer compensation time to federal and state government employees who give blood.

“This is an issue that really affects us all,” the senator said. “Someday most of us will find ourselves or someone we love, needing surgery or some type of procedure that requires a blood transfusion.”

The New York Blood Center can be contacted at 1-800-933-BLOOD.

— Roni Drew contributed to this story.

Reach reporter Chris Fuchs by e-mail at Timesledgr@aol.com or call 229-0300, Ext. 156.

Posted 7:08 pm, October 10, 2011
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