FLORENCE, S.C. – The American Red Cross Donation Center in Florence is closing.

Regular platelet donors have received notification that they would need to go to Columbia or Myrtle Beach to donate. Regular blood donors will still be able to donate blood at area blood drives.

The last day for platelet collections at the Florence American Red Cross Donation Center is Sunday.

“This decision was made after careful consideration to more effectively steward our limited resources," the Red Cross said in a letter.

“As challenging economic decisions continue in the blood industry, the American Red Cross needs to consolidate its operations in the Florence, South Carolina, market,” said Maya Franklin, communications manager for South Carolina Blood Services Region. “As a result, the Red Cross will close its blood donation center at 1555 W. Palmetto St., Florence, effective Sept. 30, 2019.”

“The closure of the Florence Donation Center will not affect the availability of Red Cross blood products for those in need,” said Robin Carter, chief recruitment executive American Red Cross, in the letter.. “Area hospitals will continue to receive blood products needed for patients without interruption.”

Area hospitals expressed no concern over the availability of blood because of the closing.

“There will be no impact to our resources or our ability to provide the appropriate care to patients,” said Sandra Bridgers, administrative director of the laboratory at McLeod Regional Medical Center.

Kenneth Lewis, the MUSC Health-Florence Medical Center director of laboratory services, said blood donated at donation centers can be distributed anywhere within the American Red Cross network.

“We receive blood products through a large network of donation centers operated by American Red Cross,” he said. “They have the capability of transferring blood products from other Red Cross sites throughout the country.”

He said in most cases critical shortages are “seen after natural disasters (hurricanes), public emergencies (mass casualties), or during the summer months when blood donations are reduced because of vacations and travel.”

“The significance of having a blood collection site in the Pee Dee is so that donors have access to donate blood and blood products to help those in need,” Lewis said. “People in the Pee Dee Region will have a more difficult time donating platelets and plasma because of having to drive a long distance to the next closest donation center. Donors will still be able to donate whole blood at various blood drives throughout the community, like the ones MUSC Health Florence Medical Center hosts several times per year."

The Red Cross provides services to approximately 36 hospitals throughout the South Carolina Blood Services Region and will continue to provide blood products to those hospitals without interruption, Franklin said.

“Red Cross community blood drives will continue in and around the Florence area, including the new regularly scheduled Florence Community Blood Drive," Franklin said. "Beginning Oct. 7, 2019, the Florence Community Blood Drive will be held biweekly at the Red Cross chapter office building. Platelet donors are encouraged to continue to help save lives by donating at our Myrtle Beach or Columbia blood donation centers.”

Robert Harris, CEO of Health Facilities Credit Union in Florence, was one of the platelet donors who received the letter.

A frequent donor, Harris said he has been giving blood/platelets since he was a sophomore in college attending The Citadel in Charleston.

He gave platelets 17 times last year and gave 24 times this year before finding out that you can’t give but 24 times a year without taking a break.

He said it takes a little more time to give platelets than to donate regular blood. He said instead of being able to donate in 10 to 15 minutes, it takes approximately two hours for the process.

Since there isn’t another donation center in the Pee Dee, Harris said, he will have to travel to Myrtle Beach or Columbia to donate.

“That could take a half a day,” he said. “I would have to do more planning to make that happen.”

Harris worries that the extra time involved will keep some people from making the trip to Myrtle Beach or Columbia to donate platelets. He said work and age could hinder donors from making the trip.

He said he understands the business aspect of the decision, but the community will be the loser. He said he wishes the Red Cross could keep it open a few days a week.

“Our mission has not changed,” Franklin said. “We remain committed to the people of South Carolina and stand ready to provide assistance when needed. We have a strong community presence in the South Carolina Blood Services Region, as well as disaster preparedness and response activities, services to military members, veterans and their families, and health and safety training. The Red Cross Palmetto/South Carolina Humanitarian Services chapter will continue to offer services out of its location at 1601 W. Lucas St. in Florence.”

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