BANGOR, Maine — Eastern Maine Medical Center has signed on with a Seattle-based blood supplier and decided to discontinue its contractual relationship with American Red Cross Blood Services, the hospital announced Monday.
The Bangor-based health facility has signed a contract with Puget Sound Blood Center for the purchase of blood and blood products, according to an EMMC press release.
Dr. Irwin Gross, medical director of EMMC’s Patient Blood Management Program, said the decision to contract with Puget Sound Blood Center was based on three key factors — blood freshness, cost savings, and the company’s ability to work closely with transfusing physicians and patients.
“From our clinical perspective, Puget Sound has committed to providing us with blood products closer to the time they were donated,” said Gross in the press release. “It is in the patients’ best interests that our supply be as fresh as possible.”
Gross added that the annual cost for blood at EMMC will be reduced by a significant amount.
Terms of the agreement were not disclosed.
“We are very pleased that Puget Sound Blood Center will be able to provide for our needs at a substantially lower cost while still meeting our need for fresh blood products,” he said.
Puget Sound also tries to avoid unnecessary transfusions, said Gross.
“EMMC has a very active and effective Patient Blood Management Program that has significantly reduced the number of blood transfusions we do at EMMC,” he said. “While blood transfusions are essential, and even life-saving in some circumstances, if transfusions can be avoided, it is better for the patient, and we are having great success in reducing transfusion rates at EMMC.”
Puget Sound Blood Management serves more than 77 hospitals in the Pacific Northwest and also shares resources and expertise with hospitals nationally, according to its director of communications, David Larsen.
“We contract with hospitals in New York, New Jersey and New Orleans, for example,” Larsen said in a telephone interview. “In this day and age a unit of blood in any city in North America can be in any other city the next day.”
Larsen said blood from the Pacific Northwest will be shipped to EMMC, as will blood from other regions of the country.
“We have a very large blood supply, with over a quarter-million donors a year in our region. Sending blood to other regions happens routinely,” Larsen said, noting the company contracts with UPS to transport the blood.
Puget Sound also prides itself on its transfusion expertise, care for hemophiliacs and ability to recover stem cells from the umbilical cords of newborns, Larsen said.
EMMC will continue to operate the Red Cross Overstock Depot until Red Cross puts an alternative plan into place, said Deborah Carey Johnson, EMMC president and CEO, in the press release.
The hospital will also support Red Cross Blood Services by holding local blood drives at EMMC, with those donations going to the Red Cross Distribution Center in Dedham, Mass.
Patricia Pisciotto, chief medical officer for the American Red Cross Northeast Blood Services Division, expressed regret that EMMC chose to contract with another blood supplier.
“The Red Cross is proud to serve hospitals throughout Maine and remains committed to serving the needs of patients,” Pisciotto said in a statement. “We are encouraged that EMMC will continue to temporarily operate the Red Cross Overstock Depot, which provides blood and blood products to hospitals throughout the state, and thank them for their continued support by holding blood drives.”
Pisciotto said the Red Cross supplies about 40 percent of the nation’s blood. Eligible blood donors are encouraged to donate blood at Red Cross centers in Bangor, Portland, Lewiston and at mobile blood drives throughout Maine.
In its statement, EMMC said the decision to switch to Puget Sound was “made after conversations with several blood suppliers, lengthy deliberations and glowing recommendations of Puget Sound from other hospitals, some in New England.”
The new relationship will also benefit other Eastern Maine Healthcare Systems hospitals including Acadia Hospital in Bangor, Blue Hill Memorial Hospital, C.A. Dean Memorial Hospital in Greenville, Inland Hospital in Waterville, Mercy Hospital in Portland, Sebasticook Valley Hospital in Pittsfield and The Aroostook Medical Center in Presque Isle, according to EMMC.
Metro and Standards Editor Michael J. Dowd contributed to this report.