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Health system to switch blood suppliers

Annual savings of $250,000 expected

By Candace Sipos -- csipos@nvdaily.com

WINCHESTER -- After purchasing blood donations from the American Red Cross for more than 20 years, Valley Health has decided to switch to Virginia Blood Services, a move that should save the company over $250,000 annually, according to Marley Fausz, communications manager for Virginia Blood Services.

Valley Health, which uses about 7,000 units of red cells, 1,000 units of plasma and 600 units of platelets every year, will officially make the change Jan. 1.

After an extensive evaluation of the cost effectiveness and service related to both companies, the organization's officials decided Virginia Blood Services would be the better choice, according to Tammy Courtney, spokeswoman for Valley Health. She expressed the officials' dissatisfaction with the service provided by the American Red Cross.

"We feel that there is better inventory management [at Virginia Blood Services]," she said. "We've experienced some significant low inventory volumes recently."

Once, Valley Health officials had to turn to Virginia Blood Services for platelets because the Red Cross was unable to meet the par levels promised in its contract. Par levels are the amount of blood units that officials like to keep on-hand at the six hospitals in the Valley Health system, Courtney said.

"There were times when our inventory volumes were below 50 percent," she said. "We had an agreed par level with the Red Cross and there were occasions when they weren't able to satisfy the blood levels."

Marianne Spampinato, regional communications manager for the Greater Alleghenies Blood Services Region of the Red Cross, said last summer was a difficult time for the organization.

There was a series of storms during August and September that caused hundreds of blood drive cancellations, because of power outages, roads being impassible and some infrastructure damage, she said. Summers are already difficult because schools, colleges and universities, which bring in 30 percent of the annual blood collection, are out of normal session, she noted.

"We did update our hospital customers," Spampinato said. "Unfortunately, we experienced significant blood drive losses on the later part of the summer ... but inventory has greatly improved in October and November."

A news release from Valley Health pointed out that Virginia Blood Services is now the sole provider of blood to hospitals in Central Virginia and the Shenandoah Valley. Spampinato said the organization will continue to hold blood drives in the Northern Shenandoah Valley, however.

"Not serving Valley Health does not mean that the Red Cross does not remain committed to the commonwealth of Virginia," she said.

After losing Valley Health, the organization will still serve 108 medical facilities across Virginia. Virginia Blood Services serves 33 hospitals alone, but Fausz said more hospitals are starting to look in that direction.

"This is kind of a new trend that we're seeing where a lot of Red Cross hospitals have been contacting us," she said.

Not only does Virginia Blood Services offer competitive pricing where each hospital is treated with the same rate, but the organization has assisted the Red Cross whenever the nonprofit came short on inventory.

Officials from Carilion Clinic, an organization headquartered in Roanoke with eight hospitals, turned to Virginia Blood Services as a second supplier for awhile, according to spokesman Eric Earnhart.

Carilion Clinic will save about $400,000 to $500,000 a year after switching to the organization from the Red Cross on Oct. 1.

"We didn't have a problem with the American Red Cross," he said. "This was just an opportunity to improve the quality and service and realize cost savings."

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