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Blood Bank’s Desrochers ‘furious’ about outsiders drawing from Erie

Dan Desrochers has one of the toughest public relations jobs in Erie.

As Director of Marketing and Community Relations of the Community Blood Bank of Northwestern Pennsylvania & Western New York, his job is to promote the benefits to our community and common man of a most selfless, personal act: donating blood.

His job has been complicated recently by the aggressive recruitment of Erie-area blood donors by blood banks based in Buffalo and Pittsburgh. Desrochers says that the exporting of “Erie” blood has reached such a critical mass that he felt compelled to invoke the help of City Council at Wednesday night’s meeting.

He answered some questions for Press and Tower:

P&T: What prompted you to go to the City Council meeting last night?

DD: The Central Blood Bank of Pittsburgh is using community assets (Tullio Arena & Bayfront Sheraton/both get taxpayer money) to directly undermine the LOCAL blood supply. As a tax payer I am furious about this problem.


P&T: Why do you think outside blood banks are recruiting in the Erie area more aggressively now than before?

DD: The Central Blood Bank of Pittsburgh never has enough blood; they import about 10% of everything they transfuse. They cover from Crawford County south and have millions of potential donors in their service area, but obviously they didn’t get enough so they’ve come to Erie and have taken advantage of the generous people here. In 2009 the entire country had a record high blood supply, we had levels even higher than after 9/11, but the Central Blood Bank of Pittsburgh was still struggling.

This problem won’t go away. The Central Blood Bank of Pittsburgh hired a full time recruiter who lives in North East to do nothing but collect blood in Erie County to send to Pittsburgh.

P&T: If you can, share some of the misconceptions or lack of understanding the local organizations that are partnering or hosting the outside blood banks for local drives tell you?

DD: The Central Blood Bank of Pittsburgh tells people that patients go from Erie to Pittsburgh for treatment and get blood and they are just ‘replenishing’ that. I can tell you, FAR more people from Crawford, Venango, Mercer and other counties (Central Blood Bank of Pittsburgh’s territory) come to Erie for treatment than people from Erie go to Pittsburgh. There simply aren’t enough blood donors to go around.

P&T: Talk about any specific brand confusion between “Community Blood Bank” and “Central Blood Bank” that exists.

DD: In the past Central Blood Bank of Pittsburgh has deliberately just used their initials CBB ( our initials too) when recruiting for blood drive here in Erie County. We actually had people call us to complain about how they were treated at a Central Blood Bank of Pittsburgh drive. They called us because they thought that’s who they had donated with.

One very well respected media person after seeing the TV ad said we could get a “Cease & Desist” because they changed their ads so much from their home market.

P&T: Are you guys rethinking your stance on your use of the Blood Mobile (encouraging people to come to 26th & Peach vs. more local blood drives)? Will you be purchasing another and/or doing more outreach into your service area?

DD: We just received funding from Erie Insurance and The Erie Community Foundation to purchase a new blood mobile in the fall. But adding more outreach to respond costs money and will drive up costs for local hospitals and ultimately patients. This activity by the Central Blood Bank of Pittsburgh is increasing costs and decreasing safety locally.

P&T: What’s the status of the blood supply today, going into the Fourth of July?

DD: We’re low. We need donors. We are now open EARLY! New summer hours at 26th & Peach 7:30am to 6pm Monday-Friday, Saturdays 9-12:30pm. No appointment is needed to save a life. But bring photo ID!

Fourth of July weekend is traditionally the worst weekend of the year for the blood supply and I am HUGELY worried, like I always am.

Did you know I was skinny and had no gray hair when I started this job 7 years ago? Alright I wasn’t skinny and maybe my 9 & 11 year old boys had something to do with the hair, but I do take the status of the blood supply very seriously.

Lives are literally at stake.

How about you readers? Have you given blood thinking that you were donating to the local blood bank and it wasn’t the case? Does it really matter to you who gets the blood you donate?

We will keep watching this conflict unfold.

21 Responses to Blood Bank’s Desrochers ‘furious’ about outsiders drawing from Erie

  1. Jane says:

    This is laughable! How dare we save the lives of people other than Erie County residents. True, people should know when donating blood where the blood is going. But honestly, if my blood will save a baby in Pittsburgh than AWESOME! Maybe my opinion is swayed due to the fact that my 2 year old, baby cousin, was just saved from 4 blood transfusions, with donated blood, in Pittsburgh. But, we still should focus on getting the word out on the importance of donating blood, that it saves lives, here in Erie, and elsewhere. God bless people who donate and the people that receive this precious gift.

  2. Joe LaRocca says:

    This is a joke right? This is an activity protected by Article One, Section Eight of the U.S. Constitution, the Commerce Clause. In layman’s language, among other things, it prohibits individual states from discriminating against products which cross state lines. Last I heard, Pittsburgh is in Pennsylvania. I’ve had four invasive surgeries in the past eight years, three in Pittsburgh, one in Philadelphia, all of which required autologus blood donations to cover the possible need for transfusions, although none was ultimately needed. For reasons which I have never understood, though I reside in North East,Pennsylvania, I was required to go through the blood bank in Jamestown, NY to donate the blood.

  3. Frank says:

    How are they “taking advantage” of the people here? The blood is going to a good use, whether it is used by the blood bank here or Pittsburgh. It sounds like this weird competition thing that only Dan cares about. This comes across as really strange.

  4. I wish it were a joke. Last year over 10,500 people got blood from the Community Blood Bank of Northwest Pennsylvania and in 2010 the number is expected to be about the same. That’s 10,500 families worried about loved ones. Erie City Council President Jim Thompson has received over 100 units of blood since last July in his brave fight against cancer, I assure you he does not think the local blood supply is a joke.

    The Community Blood Bank of Northwest Pennsylvania used to work with the Central Blood Bank of Pittsburgh, now they don’t return our calls or our emails.

    I never said what they were doing was illegal but think; if the United Way of Bucks County started holding fundraisers here and the United Way of Erie County talked about what they do locally, how would you feel about that? ONLY 37% of adults are even eligible to give blood yet less than 5% of that group do. So we are talking less than 1 out of 33 people as blood donors. Just one out of thirty three. There simply isn’t enough to safely supply Erie AND to supply Pittsburgh.

    The Central Blood Bank of Pittsburgh is a much larger company; they charge a lot more for their blood products and they have a lot more resources. What would you have us do as we struggle to make sure that every patient taken to local hospitals gets the blood they need? This new competition increases costs for everyone and decreases the local supply. I understand people get treatment in Pittsburgh. We believe it is incumbent on the local population to make sure there is enough blood at the local hospitals for the patients treated there. Many more people are treated in Erie from Crawford, Venango & Mercer Counties (Central Blood Bank’s area’s) than from Erie go to Pittsburgh. We believe charity begins at home.

    To find out where to give blood please go to our website http://www.OurDonorsSaveLives.org. Thank you.

  5. Joe LaRocca says:

    The joke is not that Mr.Thompson draws upon an alarmingly finite supply of blood. That’s your mischaracterization, Mr. Desrochers, not mine. The joke, and what mystifies us above, is your “furious” and provincial overreaction to a universal dilemma.

  6. Vinny says:

    Are you kidding? Get over yourself! Who cares where the blood goes – a life is a life is a life. Just another **edit** example of Erie people thinking the World revolves around them. In case you don’t realize it, and you probably don’t, the world is round and the border does not begin and end with little, tiny Erie.

  7. Todd says:

    I will be praying for Mr Desrochers. It deeply disturbes me that there are people like him in positions of influence. His attitude is why I will continue to exclusively donate my blood with the American Red Cross – and I am sure Mr Desrochers feel that I am costing an Erie resident life by not donating through his Blood bank. How dare he!

  8. The part of me being ‘furious’ came from an edit, as one of our competitors uses a local tax payer funded facility to hold a blood drive that will basically undermine the local blood supply. As a resident & tax payer I find this infuriating.

    City Council President Jim Thompson received two units of blood TODAY.

    A life is a life…but which hospital will your loved ones be taken to in an emergency?

    Todd, if the Central Blood Bank of Pittsburgh and the American Red Cross only drew blood where they supplied it, LIKE THE COMMUNITY BLOOD BANK DOES, this wouldn’t be an issue would it?

    Either way I’ll keep fighting to make sure that there’s blood available for your friends, family and everyone regardless of what you think of it. I hope none of you need to worry about a loved one or friend needing blood.

  9. Erie BlogWatch says:

    “Competitors” is a unusual choice of words in the context of non-profit organizations. This sounds more like an administrative turf battle than anything else. As a marketing guy, I’d think you’d scrupulously avoid any pretense which could be a turn off for potential donors.

    I think the parochialism of your outbursts is really what concerns & offends some folks. Frankly, I suspect the last thing on the minds of most blood donors is some silly “them vs us” squabble.

    By the way, isn’t it a violation of HIPAA Privacy Rules to repeatedly release clinical information related to Jim Thompson’s medical treatment ? I assume his written consent has been obtained and is on file.

  10. JimGriffey says:

    I don’t believe Dan comitted any HIPAA violation since Mr Thompson’s medical problem has been well documentd in the media. His hospital and physicians would not have allowed any info to go out w/out his consent.

  11. There’s no HIPAA angle with the blood bank. I actually got that information from the court house.

    Here’s where I am confused: we are the ONLY local supplier and have been since 1966. We only draw blood where supply (locally) yet when the Central Blood Bank of Pittsburgh and the American Red Cross come into town and take blood to Pittsburgh & Buffalo, we are the bad guys for speaking up up about it?

    By coming here the Central Blood Bank of Pittsburgh and the American Red Cross increase the cost of blood. We are spending money and resources educating people on the differences and they are paying staff for hours of travel and they spend big money on promotion to get donors to switch over. This money ultimately comes from the paying patients. I guess if you think health care costs are too low this is a good thing.

    Why don’t you ask the Central Blood Bank of Pittsburgh and the American Red Cross why they need to travel so far from where they supply to get enough blood rather than get on us for trying to keep costs down by keeping it local?

  12. Erie BlogWatch says:

    Dan: Thanks very much for clarification on HIPAA w/regard to blood bank. I would’ve thought that it covered that as well. Everytime we go to the hospital, doctor, etc., it seems like there’s another HIPAA form to fill out while you wait & it takes longer to do all the various paperwork than you actually spend with the practitioner. LOL.

    If Mr. Thompson has no problem with details of his medical treatment being made public, especially for a worthy cause, then more power to him & you. And all good wishes & prayers to him as he pursues treatment for his condition.

  13. Crawford Co. donor says:

    We will continue to support the Community Blood Bank as we have for 15+ years. They have Erie and the surrounding community’s best interest at heart, where we’re a name, not a number. Why can’t Central BB drum up enough support in their own back yard? Seems strange.
    We’ll see you about 7/15, Dan, when we’re eligible! Keep up the great work.

  14. David Hayes says:

    I have been a regular donor here in Erie to the Community Blood Bank for several years. I am pleased that my blood goes to help the local community. If someone from Pittsburgh gets hurt here, they will recieve blood from here. Just the same as if I got hurt in Pittsburgh. Each are should be able to support thier own need for blood supply.

  15. joel says:

    From the Community Blood Bank (Fri 7/2):

    COMMUNITY BLOOD BANK SEES OVERWHELMING SUPPORT

    ERIE, PA – Just a day after Community Blood Bank staff worked to educate area blood donors on the importance of donating locally, the only blood supplier to local hospitals was inundated with blood donors at the fixed site Friday.

    “All I can say, is ‘We love you, Erie’,” said Jacqueline Kocz, Executive Director of the Community Blood Bank.

    By late afternoon, the Community Blood Bank had seen well over 200 donors, but officials cautioned that more donors would still be needed before the Fourth of July holiday as well as after.

    “We are so grateful for the response from blood donors today,” said Brittany Yost, donor resource coordinator. “But just as quickly as the blood is being donated it will be used, so we want to encourage donors to keep coming in.”

    The Community Blood Bank partnered with the Erie SeaWolves on Friday so that every donor could receive SeaWolves merchandise and game tickets. The first 100 donors who come in on Saturday will receive a $10 Tinseltown gift card, courtesy of Hamot Medical Center.

    “Community members have really taken the blood supply into their own hands and worked to keep Erie safe,” said Yost. “The outpouring of support is tremendous, and lives will be saved because of it.”

    The Community Blood Bank is open until 6 p.m. today, and from 9 a.m.-12:30 on Saturday. The blood bank will be closed on Monday in observance of the Fourth of July holiday.

    Community Blood Bank of NWPA & WNY is the only supplier of blood and blood products to all the hospitals in Erie, Elk, McKean, Tioga, Warren counties and Titusville. Community Blood Bank is also the primary supplier of all blood and blood products to Allegany, Cattaraugus, Chautauqua and Potter counties. All blood donations made with the Community Blood Bank stay local and will save the lives of local patients. The Community Blood Bank only draws from the areas in which it supplies. In order to maintain a safe and adequate blood supply Community Blood Bank is asking all local donors to make their life-saving donation with the Community Blood Bank to save the lives of local patients.

    Coverage of their showdown with Central Blood Bank at the Sheraton Bayfront:
    YourErie.com: http://yourerie.com/fulltext/?nxd_id=124485
    GoErie.com: http://www.goerie.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20100702/NEWS02/307019861/-1/ETN

  16. Youneedtoknow says:

    You should know that Community Blood Bank DOES collect blood in the Meadville area but Meadville Medical Center does not use Community Blood Bank. THey use Central Blood Bank so, if you give to Community, it aint getting down here. Come on Dan D, tell the WHOLE story….or I will.

  17. The Community Blood Bank of Northwest Pennsylvania began supplying Titusville Area Hospital (In Crawford County) in February, 2010. we now supply over 75% of the blood they use.

    We held one blood drive in Meadville as part of a series of drives across the region with the Masons and the Boys Scouts of America. They came to us and requested we hold those drives. They picked all of the locations.

    Not quite the same as hiring a full time recruiter in Pittsburgh to do nothing but recruit donors to send their blood to Erie.

    So now you know.

  18. KatieR says:

    Why are so many of you jumping down the throats of Community BB? They have the best interests of Erie and our region at heart. Yes a life is a life, but what are you going to tell someone at Hamot or St. Vincent’s when we don’t have enough blood to transfuse them? Sorry you were in a horrible car accident but we decided to send our blood to Pittsburgh??

    You all seem so cavalier about this, you don’t think what will happen if god-forbid you need blood transfusions. Do you really want to take the chance that they can helicopter/drive you to Pittsburgh in time?

    And I do find it extremely underhanded to make people think they’re donating locally by using the initials CBB. In my book that’s fraud.

    I will say if we had an oversupply of blood I would find this slightly ridiculous, but that’s not where we are.

  19. Katie, Thank you so much for the support. Hundreds of people like you came out and waited up to 2 hours to give blood last Friday, before a holiday weekend no less, to give blood locally when this story really broke( TV & print, of course Joel was WAY ahead of the curve)

    319 people signed in making it the 2nd biggest day in Community Blood Bank history after the 450 donors on 9/11. We are so grateful to everyone who supports us. It takes about 800 donors EACH WEEK to provide for the patients in NW PA and this whole thing wouldn’t be an issue if we had more people turn out regularly.

    We’re open early now at 26th & Peach, from 7:30am to 6pm Monday-Friday & Saturdays 9-12:30. Maybe in addition to commenting some of you could try donating as well. I promise you’ll like how good it feels to literally help save a life.

  20. Bob Bohen says:

    I am a regular donator to the Erie Blood Bank. (And I’ve got the t-shirts to prove it!) It is such an easy process that I often wonder why more people don’t do it. Why do I do it? Ultimately, if I’m being truthful, it is selfish. I feel so good, so empowered after I do it. I may have saved someone’s life! Seriously, for less than one second of “pain” (two pin pricks – one when they test your blood, and the other when they actually put the needle in your arm), you have the endorphin high for the rest of the day. It takes less than half an hour, and you have the perfect excuse to to lounge around for the rest of the day. (Plus, the aforementioned t-shirts!!)

    But back to the topic on hand – why can’t the Pittsburgh blood bank get enough blood in it’s own territory? They have 10 to 20 times the population-base to recruit from. Why can’t they get their population to donate at the levels they need? Those people who donated at Best Buy a few weeks ago for the American Red Cross could have just as easily donated at the CBB. The vast majority of those people live in the Erie area, and if, God forbid, they ever need blood at a local hospital, they will receive blood donated at the CBB. And if, God forbid again, someone from the Pittsburgh-area needs hospitalization here, they also will receive blood from the CBB. Just as I would get blood from the Pittsburgh blood bank if I were in an accident in Pittsburgh.

    Yes, a life is a life. If my blood could save anyone, anywhere, I would donate if needed. BUT, I live here. I donate here. I wouldn’t want officials from Pittsburgh to come to Erie to collect taxes for Pittsburgh just because they can’t collect enough from their own population-base.

  21. Bob,

    Thanks for being a donor and for the kind post. I hope you don’t mind if I borrow your tax analogy, it’s the best description I’ve heard yet! Thanks.

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