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Blood Provider Issues Plea for Donations

Health: The county's main supplier says it has only about a day's inventory of O positive and negative, less than one-fourth the normal supply on hand.


VENTURA — Facing a shortage of the most common blood type supply, the county's main provider of the vital fluid is making a plea for donations.

"We have about a day's supply right now," said Patty Hunt, community relations director for the Ventura-based United Blood Services. "We usually have enough blood for four to five [days]."

The nonprofit blood bank, which supplies blood to all of the county's hospitals, needs to collect about 110 pints each day to meet the needs of county hospitals, Hunt said. In the past the blood bank has collected about 75 pints a day.

Hunt said the agency is in dire need of type O positive and negative blood, which together are the most common types.

While the early fall and spring seasons are typically busy times for blood banks, this year's shortage has mirrored an overall crisis in the nation's blood supply, Hunt said.

"This has been the worst year, overall, in blood banking," Hunt said.

The blood bank aims to collect about 26,000 units of blood each year in Ventura County, she said.

An early flu season has contributed to the shortage as has the region's low unemployment rate. More people working has meant fewer available blood donors, said Ann Sobel, executive director for the Ventura County chapter of the American Red Cross.

The Red Cross hosts blood donations, but United Blood Services is the county's main blood bank, she said.

While the blood supply is lower than usual, area hospitals are not in panic mode, said Kris Carraway Bowman, a spokeswoman for Los Robles Regional Medical Center in Thousand Oaks.

"We count on [United Blood Services] to monitor blood supply needs for the area," she said. "We are fine. We have not had to cancel any surgeries due to a lack of a certain type of blood."

In the United States, about 40% of the population has type O positive blood, Hunt said. Finding donors should not be a problem, Hunt said. Although only about 6% of people have type O negative blood, they are considered universal donors. Their blood type can be given to anyone in an emergency situation, Hunt said.

On a typical weekday, about 40 people donate blood at the center's main office, she said. Other county offices for the blood bank are in Camarillo and Thousand Oaks.

For the past 10 years, Barbara Moler has rolled up a sleeve and given blood.

The 58-year-old Ventura resident, who usually donates about six times a year, stopped in after work to donate Tuesday afternoon.

"It's something I can give to somebody," the B-positive donor said. "It doesn't cost me anything."

The blood bank also sends out two mobile blood centers that make stops in Ventura County on weekends.

Donating blood takes about an hour and includes a brief health screening and juice and snacks after the procedure, Hunt said.

"I like the cookies," Moler said, laughing. "But the popcorn is much better.

For more information about blood donations, call (800) 715-3699.

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