Blood banks struggle with severe shortage 

Squeezing a red foam ball in his right hand and reclining in a chair at the Blood Centers of the Pacific’s office in San Mateo, Patrick McMorrow said he was glad to help out during the critical blood shortage now dogging the Bay Area.

Unaware of the shortage, the San Bruno resident and regular donor stopped in on his way to work at the Hyatt Hotel in Burlingame. He said he would ask his fellow employees to do what they could to help.

"I feel like I’m helping other people, I guess," McMorrow said.

Bay Area blood supplies are running 30 percent, or 450 pints, short of the 1,500 pints experts like to have on hand, according to Lisa Bloch, spokeswoman for the Blood Centers of the Pacific. The center provides about 500 pints to 41-area hospitals daily, Bloch said.

About 20 percent of the Bay Area’s blood supply comes from outside the state, but bad weather in the Midwest, combined with the flu and extended vacations, have conspired to keep donors from their regular appointments, Bloch said. Blood centers have to turn away donors who exhibit flu-like symptoms or are on certain medications for safety reasons, officials said.

To deal with the shortage, the blood center has begun rationing the amount of blood it provides hospitals. If things don’t improve the center could be forced to ask hospitals to reschedule non-critical surgeries and procedures that might require large amounts of blood, Bloch said.

As of Tuesday, Peninsula Medical Center in Burlingame hadn’t experienced any interruption in blood supply, according to spokeswoman Margie O’Claire. A spokeswoman for Kaiser couldn’t be reached for comment before deadline.

The shortage raises concerns about the Bay Area’s ability to respond to an emergency, such as a natural disaster, according to officials. Blood donations are used to treat everyone from car accident victims to new mothers and premature babies, Bloch said.

"This should be a rallying cry for people to get out and give more blood," county Director of Emergency Services and Homeland Security John Quinlan said.

Busy facility has spacious new home

MILLBRAE — Long in limbo, the Blood Centers of the Pacific will soon settle into a new permanent home in Millbrae.

The center, which supplies hundreds of pints of blood to 41 Bay Area hospitals daily, will open to donors Jan. 30 in a new 8,000-square-foot location, according to spokeswoman Lisa Bloch.

Located at 111 Rollins Road, the new facility will quadruple the size of the center’s rented room on Amphlett Boulevard near the Marriott Hotel in San Mateo.

"Having this larger area will allow us to have storage space for equipment and a conference room," Bloch said.

The blood center has been without a permanent home for a year and nine months. It was forced to leave the offices it has occupied, since 1954, on the Peninsula Medical Center campus due to construction

The Peninsula office averages 40-50 donors a day, six days a week, and is the blood center’s second largest office, after its San Francisco headquarters at Masonic Avenue and Turk Street, Bloch said.

The new office will have 10 donor beds and includes four

"e-chairs" that allow donors to surf the Internet or watch a DVD during longer procedures such as blood plasma or platelet donations — each of which take about 90 minutes, officials said.

The blood bank’s new location is within walking distance from BART and Caltrain at the multimodal Millbrae station, an important factor for donors, Bloch said.

More information about donating blood is available online at the Blood Centers of the Pacific web site or by calling 1-888-393-GIVE.

E-mail Edward Carpenter at

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