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Wednesday, August 3rd, 2005 -- 8:36 AM

Conflicting blood drives next Monday show there is a growing competition for donors in our area.

For many years, when people thought about donating blood, they thought solely of the American Red Cross. The Red Cross was the primary supplier of blood in case of emergencies and for hospitals' day-to-day operations. As Red Cross blood prices have soared in recent years, other non-profit organizations ? such as the Blood Center of Wisconsin ? have established themselves as the primary suppliers of blood to many area hospitals, including the Memorial Medical Center here in Neillsville. Memorial Medical Center switched from the Red Cross to the Blood Center in 2002; at the time, the move saved over $60,000 a year.

While both sides of this ?blood war? downplayed a rivalry when hospitals began switching to the Blood Center, both now admit that there is competition for donors. In fact, The Red Cross and the Blood Center will hold Neillsville blood drives on the same day next Monday. Bonita Leitza, is a donor recruitment representative with the Red Cross. She calls the double-booking ?unfortunate?.

"It forces people to make a decision. What's better is when there are blood drives on various days of the week and various times of day," Leitza says.

While it appears the Red Cross? blood drive had been scheduled first, Todd Abdner of the Blood Center of Wisconsin denies this is ?power play?.

"It's probably more fluke than anything else," Abdner says.

Both Leitza and Abdner admit that there is competition between the Red Cross and the Blood Center for donors because the population is aging, and new donors have been slow to come forward. Both say there are good reasons to donate to their organization. Abdner says blood given to the Blood Center will help the local community.

"Surveys we've conducted with donors say donating blood and knowing it will help a patient is their number one priority after knowing that the local blood supply is being met at their hospital," Abdner says.

Leitza says a donation of blood to the Red Cross will help a lot of people.

"The Red Cross is a national system. We provide blood anywhere at anytime to anyone who needs it," Leitza explains.

And while there is competition now, both note the problem could be alleviated if more people gave blood. Statistics show that only about 3-percent of the population donates blood.

[b]The American Red Cross blood drive will be held from noon to 6 p.m. on Monday at the Living Hope Church; the Blood Center blood drive will be held from 12:30 to 5:30 at the Neillsville Fire Hall.[/b]

Feel free to contact us with questions and/or comments.