Response to New York Times coverage of Red Cross blood services

The American Red Cross is no stranger to intense scrutiny from the government, private organizations and the American public. Yesterday’s New York Times article regarding the organization’s efforts to reform blood collection and distribution processes is a hard-hitting piece that is reminiscent of scrutiny after 9/11, Hurricane Katrina and Senator Grassley’s call to reform the leadership structure. (see other coverage here and here)

The organization does not deny that there are problems. There is an aggressive plan in place right now to overhaul the information system, standardize processes across 36 blood regions and instill smart and stringent practices through training the organization’s 22,000 blood employees. Leadership shows incredible focus and has ranked this as their highest priority.

After 9/11, calls from the public changed the fundamental nature of the Red Cross donation system, allowing individuals to designate the exact program to benefit from their money. After Hurricanes Katrina and Rita, disasters of unprecedented size, the organization consulted with government agencies to apply lessons from their multi-billion dollar response and is now ready for another Katrina. Grassley’s calls for reform resulted in a leaner, more effective Board of Governors. This episode will no doubt have an equally positive effect.

Some people have called for the organization to be split apart, spinning off biomedical services as a new organization. This would disassemble one of America’s greatest treasures and would, in my estimation, fail to address the root issues at stake.

The Red Cross is America’s trusted guardian, whether it comes to disaster response (serving 70,000 disasters each year), CPR and first aid classes, international services like vaccination campaigns, services to the armed forces or blood donation. The organization handles almost half of the nation’s blood supply. What’s more, the Red Cross symbol represents an international movement of humanitarians dedicated to alleviating human suffering through preparedness and response. The Red Cross is built on a proud history of over 125 years and is strong through hundreds of thousands of volunteers that donate their time, money and expertise to the organization’s mission.

Blood supplies are safer than they ever have been and continue to get safer through these calls for reform. While the issues are put in a spotlight and reforms are debated, the need for blood remains as high as ever. Consider donating today.

Mat Morgan

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