Decreased demand for blood transfusions is behind the recent decision by the Community Blood Center of the Ozarks to lay off 27 full-time and 12 part-time employees.
“We had a 15 percent decline in blood transfusions in the first three months of 2013 compared to the first three months of 2012,” said Chris Pilgrim, marketing manager for the blood center. “We just got the numbers for March. It was (down) almost 19 percent.
“That follows a decline of 4 to 7 percent in the last part of 2012.
Before the cuts, the center employed about 220 people. Pilgrim said officials hoped attrition would forestall the need for layoffs, but the drawdown in demand was too great.
“The decrease was so significant that in the end it became apparent that our budget and staffing would have to change immediately,” he said.
No employees of the Joplin Donor Center inside the main entrance to Northpark Mall were affected by the staffing cuts.
The center provides blood and blood products to 38 hospitals in a region that includes most of Southwest Missouri and Northwest Arkansas. Its clients include Mercy Hospital Joplin and Freeman Health System.
A spokeswoman for Freeman said overall blood usage there has not decreased, but it has at Mercy Hospital Joplin because of the May 2011 tornado.
Pilgrim said that nationwide, medical advancements and new surgical techniques are contributing to the decrease in the need for blood.
A big reason for the decline is that blood salvage devices are being used more frequently by hospitals. A recent report in Stanford Medicine Magazine, a publication of the Stanford University School of Medicine, states: “The cell salvage device has been around for decades, but only recently has evidence emerged that autotransfusion — giving patients their own blood instead of blood from donors — leads to better surgery outcomes.”
Cell salvage refers to medical procedures that clean and preserve a patient’s own blood cells, allowing recovery of blood that would otherwise be lost in surgery.
“As a result,” the report noted, “the use of the machines has gone from extremely rare to commonplace. Today, hospitals that have the machines use them in many scheduled abdominal and heart surgeries and routinely in trauma cases involving massive bleeding.”
At its national summit last fall, the American Medical Association brought attention to the subject when it identified the overuse of five medical treatments. Blood transfusions were on the list along with heart stents, ear tubes, antibiotics and inducing birth in pregnant women.
The Stanford report said: “Donated blood carries risks, albeit very slight, of infection and setting off an immune reaction. But research is also showing that even when these drastic outcomes are avoided, there’s something else about donated blood — which scientists don’t fully understand — that could slow recovery time or increase complications.”