W A S H I N G T O N, May 23, 2001 -- The nation's hospitals will pay more for blood collected by the American Red Cross, which plans to raise its prices by July to help pay off debts.
Red Cross officials said today that they could not say howmuch the price would increase nationally.
"Safety and availability is our No. 1 priority," saidJacquelyn Fredrick, who oversees collections and distribution forthe Red Cross. "We want to be able to ensure tomorrow's bloodsupply by investing in today's."
'Critical Blood Shortages'
The Red Cross, which supplies about half of the nation's donorsupply, is telling hospitals of its plans to raise the cost of apint of blood. National officials say the prices are beingdetermined by local blood centers.
Indiana hospitals, for example, have already learned theirprices are rising 10 percent to 35 percent.
The typical pint of red blood cell product now costs $130 to$150.
Fredrick does not expect the price increase to affect hospitals'ability to provide blood to patients this summer, but she said,"there are still critical blood shortages in this country."
The extra funds will be used to help pay off roughly $300million in debt the organization has accrued in implementing bloodsafety measures, blood officials said.
Since 1996, the cost of the Red Cross collecting, testing,transporting and delivering blood has risen 27 percent. In thatsame time, officials said, prices for their products have risen 9.9percent.
The Red Cross has an annual operating budget of roughly $1.7billion.
Platelets and Plasma Charges Will Not Increase
Officials said they need more money for research and developmentand to create a strategic blood reserve for emergencies.
The Red Cross collects 6.5 million units of blood a year. Theorganization collects a half million units of other specialdonations which may include plasma and platelets.
Prices are expected to remain stable for other blood products,such as platelets used for cancer patients and plasma used to treathemophiliacs and others with bleeding disorders or immune systemdeficiencies.
The organization today started a $2 million advertisingand telephone campaign aimed at current and lapsed donors.
The Red Cross recently tightened restrictions on donors who havetraveled to Europe to guard against the import and spread of ahuman version of mad cow disease.