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The Spokesman-Review Newspaper
Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Blood supplier cuts back

The sole provider of human blood for Spokane-area hospitals has cut its hours and will lay off four workers to offset a drop in revenue.

The Inland Northwest Blood Center has announced those steps to address a revenue decline of $252,000, or 2 percent, during the first four months of 2005, said CEO Judi Young.

The nonprofit center collects blood, mostly from volunteers, and provides about 30,000 units of blood to 30 area hospitals annually.

“We’ve looked at the options we need to take for the past eight months,” said Young, noting that the changes will mean fewer hours of operation at its Spokane and Lewiston centers. Its Coeur d’Alene center will not be affected.

In addition to cutting four workers and cutting hours, the blood center’s managers are taking a voluntary pay cut; all employees will also start paying a portion of their health-insurance premiums, said Young.

“The changes area hospitals are facing,” she said, “are beginning to affect us as well.”

The center has seen a 6 percent drop in blood requests from hospitals in the first four months of this year, she said.

Among the factors driving that decline is increased reliance by hospitals on “bloodless” surgery, in which the patient’s blood is reused, rather than relying on transfusions.

That trend has been clear among doctors who perform heart surgeries in the area, Young noted.

In the next month, three positions out of 150 at the Spokane center will be cut. Those are in computer services, accounting and human resources. A training instructor’s job in Lewiston will also be cut.

Starting Aug. 1, the Lewiston center, opened last year, will operate Tuesday through Friday. Saturday hours there will be eliminated.

The Spokane blood center, at 210 W. Cataldo, will stay open one hour less per day Monday through Thursday. No changes are planned in the center’s Friday and Saturday hours.

Young said nine senior managers are taking voluntary salary reductions for an indefinite period. She declined to say how large the salary reductions are.

“That will last for as long as it takes” to move to a reliable financial condition, she said.

Starting Sept. 1, all blood center employees will contribute 7 percent of the cost of their own medical insurance premiums, she said. Up to now they’ve not paid anything.

Young estimated the contributions will save about $3,500 during the last four months of the year.

As blood demand has dropped, so have donations by area residents, Young added. The center’s three offices collected about 1,200 fewer blood units during 2005’s first four months than in the same period last year. That’s a decline of 11 percent.

“It could be that more people are avoiding donating because they’re taking medications, or for other reasons,” she said. The center is set to launch a major three-day campaign to bring in donations ahead of the usually busy Fourth of July weekend, she said.

The blood center moved into its new $13-million Spokane building in 2003. That expansion was needed, said Young, in order to have more room for expanded services. The old site, near Lewis and Clark High School, had inadequate parking and was too small for the entire staff.

“One third of our staff were housed off-site” before the move, said Young.