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DoD Moves to Restrict Civilian Blood Collections on Bases

By Sgt. 1st Class Kathleen T. Rhem, USA
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Sept. 28, 2001 – DoD officials have approved a policy to restrict blood drives by civilian agencies on military bases should the services need extra blood in coming months.

"The support required for an operation such as this may require us to conserve our donor resource in case we need them for specific support missions for the military," said Army Col. Michael Fitzpatrick, director of DoD's Armed Services Blood Program Office.

Some bases may need to reduce blood drives by civilian agencies such as the Red Cross if they plan to increase military blood drives. Other bases may need to suspend civilian blood drives because deployments have reduced the available donor population, Fitzpatrick said.

A similar policy was enacted during Operations Desert Shield and Desert Storm for the same reasons, he said.

No bases have actually begun restricting access to civilian agencies wanting to conduct blood drives, but several are considering it. Fitzpatrick said the largest post considering the move is the Army's Fort Jackson, S.C. Its 54,000 trainees per year, located an hour from Dwight D. Eisenhower Regional Medical Center at Fort Gordon, Ga., make an ideal donor pool.

"We plan to collect more blood from trainees and recruits at Fort Jackson than we have in the past," he said.

Fitzpatrick seemed confident the move to restrict access to military installations wouldn't negatively affect civilian blood-collection agencies. "The civilian supply should remain stable," he said. "If needed, we believe that both DoD personnel and civilians would respond like they did the week of the attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon. The population has always responded in a situation like that if the call goes out for blood donors."

This is only intended to be a temporary move. "We'll monitor the blood supply and the restrictions. When it appears that we can loosen the restrictions, we'll do that," Fitzpatrick said.

DoD maintains a blood supply separate from that maintained by civilian organizations. There are several reasons.

"In order to make sure the Department of Defense isn't impacted by a possible blood shortage, we've always maintained our own blood collection system," Fitzpatrick said. "We also want to make sure we don't cause a shortage in the civilian system. Since we run our own medical support system, we've always felt that it's important to make that a complete system."

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