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Red Cross Reduces Blood Shipments to Middle East

January 23, 1991| From a Times Staff Writer

WASHINGTON — The American Red Cross has reduced its blood shipments to Persian Gulf hospitals to avoid creating an oversupply that could be wasted.

"As blood is a precious resource, lasting only 42 days, the military is acting to avoid an overabundant supply," the agency said in a statement.

Supplies to the gulf were scaled back to 400 units, or pints, this week. Last week, blood shipments reached a peak level of 1,000 units a day for three days. The Red Cross has sent a total of 6,750 units to the gulf since mid-December.

U.S. military officials have characterized their blood reserves as substantial, and "as the Gulf War has seen few casualties, (they) have asked civilian blood suppliers to decrease shipments and remain on alert," the Red Cross said.

The Red Cross blood services program serves the armed forces blood program on an as-needed basis and is providing only a small percentage of the military blood supply, the agency said. Blood shipped from Red Cross blood centers nationwide has been obtained from existing inventories and has not required additional donors or blood drives, it said.

Despite this, "the patriotic response of American blood donors has been tremendous," said Carolyn Weisberg, director of donor services. Blood donations nearly doubled last week in Atlanta, Boston and Buffalo, N.Y., she said.

Los Angeles Red Cross officials reported that a tremendous outpouring of donations had reversed a severe shortage of blood supplies.

In response to a special appeal last week, the Red Cross received more than 9,600 units of blood, regional spokeswoman Barbara Wilks said. The donations enabled the organization to reach a goal of 11,630 units of blood--enough to handle local needs and to contribute to the national effort to gather blood for the gulf front.

Nationally, the Red Cross reported that military officials have said they may again request a minimum of 1,000 units a day if the war escalates. Distribution and transportation of Red Cross blood supplies is handled by military airlift from McGuire Air Force Base in New Jersey.

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