UCI Medical Center is taking back administration of its blood collection operation after the private firm that had run it for three years said the contract was not profitable, UC Irvine officials said.
Now, along with collecting blood at the medical center in Orange, hospital officials plan blood drives throughout the county. The medical center hopes to have its own mobile blood bank by the end of the year, said Dr. Jose Ocariz, medical director of the center's blood and tissue bank.
Ocariz said just 3% of Orange County residents donate blood, which leaves plenty of room for the medical center to seek donations without competing with the American Red Cross.
UCI Medical Center, the largest trauma center in Orange County, uses an average of about 13,000 pints of blood a year, the most of any hospital in the county.
The medical center's goal for the first year is to collect 5,000 to 6,000 pints, Ocariz said. The medical center will buy the remainder from the Red Cross and commercial firms.
The center pays more than $200 a pint for blood, but, Ocariz said, the hospital's cost to collect its own supply would be about $130 to $140 a pint.
Maureen Zehntner, the medical center's chief operating officer, said the center expects to save $250,000 the first year.
The hospital complex has had the small donor center since 1977, used mainly to collect blood from patients' relatives. For three years, UCI has contracted with Hemacare Corp. to manage it.
The Woodland Hills-based company told UCI officials that their donor center was not profitable, and that the firm had decided to put more effort into bloodmobiles, Ocariz said.
With the center taking over collections, most blood donated will be used in Orange County, Ocariz said. Under Hemacare, if there was a shortage on the East Coast, for example, blood from this region was sent there.
"We want to make sure we take care of Orange County first," he said.
Although they don't have a mobile facility yet, officials have begun blood drives. On Thursday, the center collected blood at the accounting firm of Deloitte & Touche near South Coast Plaza in Costa Mesa.
Julie Juliusson, spokeswoman for American Red Cross Blood Services, Southern California Region, said the group supports the medical center's efforts. "There are many hospitals that have their own blood banks," she said. "We encourage the public to support community efforts, whether at their local hospital or at the Red Cross."