Community Blood Center of KC to merge with New York counterpart

Faced with declining demand for blood, the financially strapped

Community Blood Center of Greater Kansas City

announced Monday that it is merging with the substantially larger

New York Blood Center


The merger of the two nonprofit organizations, which is expected to be completed next month, will bring no immediate changes to the Community Blood Center, its spokeswoman, Lisa Keller, said.

The blood center will continue to operate its four donor centers in the Kansas City area, as well as centers in Topeka and St. Joseph. No layoffs are planned.

“Nothing will change, except for the ability to bring greater services,” Keller said.

The New York Blood Center does extensive research and maintains the world’s largest public cord blood bank. Umbilical cord blood is rich in stem cells and is used to treat a variety of diseases, including leukemia, lymphoma and anemia.

Keller said the Community Blood Center hopes to bring the additional services offered by the New York center, such as its cord blood bank, to Kansas City.

“The intent is to keep us viable, serving our Kansas City market,” she said.

Jay Menitove, who has led the Community Blood Center since 1997, will retire in the next 30 days. He had been postponing his retirement, originally planned for 2012, as the blood center sought a merger partner. Christopher Hillyer, the president and CEO of the New York Blood Center, also will lead the Kansas City center.

The Kansas City-New York merger is part of a nationwide trend by blood collection organizations to consolidate their operations as

hospitals have dramatically reduced their use of blood in recent years

, both to save money and to reduce risks to patients.

While transfusions remain an essential part of medicine and donors are still needed, a growing body of research has found that many hospital patients stay healthier when they receive little or no transfused blood. They face less risk of infection, lung complicationsand+ even death.

From 2008 to 2011, transfusions of red blood cells nationwide dropped 8.2 percent, according to the most recent government data. Blood banking experts say the downward trend has continued.

The Community Blood Center also has seen a steady drop in demand, with transfusion rates in the Kansas City area running well below those of the nation as a whole.

In 2012, the blood center began losing money for the first time in a decade. It shut down a new laboratory for testing donor blood that it had opened just four years earlier, cut staff and closed two low-yield donor centers.

Keller said the blood center began looking for a “strategic partner” about three years ago. Menitove and Hillyer had collaborated on research and served together in leadership positions with the blood-banking organization


. About a year ago, they began “in-depth” conversations leading to the merger, Keller said.

The Community Blood Center was founded in 1958. It serves about 70 hospitals in Kansas City, eastern Kansas and western Missouri. It had revenue of about $43 million in 2012.

The New York Blood Center is one of the largest independent community-based blood centers in the nation. It provides blood to nearly 200 hospitals throughout New York City and its suburbs in New York state, as well as in parts of New Jersey, Connecticut and Pennsylvania. Its fiscal 2012-2013 revenues totaled more than $329 million.

Keller said the New York center will be the “parent company” of the merger, although the two centers will operate as separate units. While details haven’t been finalized, the blood centers will maintain their own boards with some shared members, she said.

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