RMC receives regional blood services award from Red Cross
by Patrick McCreless
pmccreless@annistonstar.com
Jun 04, 2013 | 3309 views |  0 comments | 50 50 recommendations | email to a friend | print
The RMC and the Red Cross encourage people to donate blood during the summer due to blood supply shortages.  Photo by Courtney Davies
The RMC and the Red Cross encourage people to donate blood during the summer due to blood supply shortages. Photo by Courtney Davies
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A few years ago, Pat Swafford could expect about 35 people to participate in one of Regional Medical Center's regular blood drives.

The Anniston hospital now regularly has 100 people or more who come to donate.

Swafford, blood drive coordinator at RMC, and Christy Cole, the hospital's blood bank supervisor, have partnered with the facility's administration in recent years to attract more donors. Those efforts have not gone unnoticed, with Swafford and Cole last week accepting the American Red Cross' Blood Services Outstanding Sponsor award on behalf of RMC.

Those efforts are also sorely needed particularly as summer begins, a time when blood donations drop and demand increases in the state as more people travel, area blood suppliers say.

Evan Duffy, communication program manager for the American Red Cross' Alabama-Central Gulf Coast blood services region, said RMC won the award after beating all other hospitals in the region, which includes Alabama and 21 counties in the Florida Panhandle and Mississippi coast. Red Cross partners with hospitals across the country to varying degrees in blood drive efforts.

Duffy said Red Cross examined the hospitals in the region in terms of what they had done to get blood donations.

"They've done a great job of impressing on the staff there on how important blood donations are and in helping us achieve our mission in making blood available and getting it to where it's needed," Duffy said of RMC. "We just look for people going above and beyond ... they've done a really good job of distinguishing themselves."

Cole said she and Swafford were very excited and surprised that RMC received the award.

"We've never gotten anything like this before," Cole said.

RMC spokeswoman Hillary Folsom said the hospital's administration has strongly supported women’s blood drive efforts in recent years by increasing incentives for donors.

"We now offer a lot of incentives like Walmart gift cards and televisions that people can register for," Folsom said.

Cole has helped with the hospital blood drives for the last two years, but Swafford has been the coordinator for the last 25 years.

"I started doing it because there was a need for it ... there was no coordinator then," Swafford said. "It's just a good cause and we have to have it."

According to Red Cross' website, nationwide the organization's blood supply has reached emergency levels with 50,000 fewer donations than expected in June. This shortfall leaves Red Cross with half the readily available blood products on hand now than this time last year.

Duffy noted that Red Cross' Alabama region was not yet facing shortages. He said summer shortages are due mainly to high school and college students leaving school.

"Students in our region represent 21 percent of the blood we collect," Duffy said. "So when they are out of class, there is a drop-off there."

Duffy added that blood demand jumps in the summer as travel increases.

"The summer is a time when unfortunately you see more traffic accidents," he said.

Ashley Smith, central Alabama district director for LifeSouth, a blood supplier for hospitals in Alabama, Florida and Georgia, said her organization is already facing blood shortages. Smith said her district has one to two days’ worth of supply of certain types of blood.

"The minimum we want to be at is a three-day supply," Smith said.

To try and make up for losses in student donors, LifeSouth tries to schedule more blood drives with businesses, Smith said.

"If we can get 30 or 40 people from a business, that is a good day," Smith said.

Cole said despite their efforts, keeping a steady supply of blood at RMC can still be a challenge.

"It's always a struggle, but we always try to do our best," Cole said.

RMC's next blood drive will be held from 7 a.m. to 5 p.m. on June 12 through June 14 at the hospital.

Staff writer Patrick McCreless: 256-235-3561. On Twitter @PMcCreless_Star.

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