East End’s only blood donation center quietly closes its doors

08/08/2014 3:00 PM |

NYBC

The East End’s only blood donation center, the brick-and-mortar Long Island Blood Services, quietly closed its doors in Riverhead this spring — so quietly, in fact, that many in the community were unaware.

A representative from New York Blood Center, the organization that owned Long Island Blood Services, confirmed Thursday the Route 58 location closed April 16 but couldn’t provide further information. Requests for additional comment from NYBC’s corporate headquarters in Manhattan weren’t immediately returned.

New York Blood Center’s nearest donation center, where volunteers can donate whole blood, platelets and plasma on a consistent basis, is now located roughly 21 miles away in Port Jefferson Station.

The American Red Cross, which is not affiliated with NYBC, only hosts blood drives.

According to Neal Siegal, an associate broker with Brody Realty, the Melville firm listing the 1,950-square foot-space for lease, NYBC “simply was not getting enough blood donations in Riverhead” to sustain operations.

“It was a shame; they wanted to be there,” Mr. Siegal said. “They had been there successfully for a number of years.”

Mr. Siegal declined to say exactly how much the property will be leased for, citing the fact that all rental agreements vary. But he estimated it will ultimately rent for around $25,000 a month and said there has been mild interest in the space, which is located across the street from Target.

Last winter, amid a slew of winter storms that canceled many local blood drives, Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone urged donors to head to their nearest New York Blood Center.

“So many people depend on donations to survive serious illnesses or accidents,” Mr. Bellone said in a Feb. 11 press release. ”Giving blood is an easy way to help.”

According to its website, New York Blood Center is one of the largest community-based, nonprofit blood collection and distribution organizations in the nation. It operates blood donation centers and blood drives throughout New York City, Long Island, the Hudson Valley and New Jersey. It also has a bone marrow registry and national cord blood program.

On Thursday, Riverhead Fire Chief Joseph Raynor expressed surprise when told by a reporter Long Island Blood Services was no longer operating.

“I didn’t even know it was closed,” he said.

It’s currently unclear how, or if, the blood center’s shuttering affects local hospitals, including nearby Peconic Bay Medical Center. Requests for comment from PBMC officials were not immediately returned.

Dr. Jeff Vacirca, an oncologist and the CEO of North Shore Oncology and Hematology Associates in Riverhead, also said he was unaware of the news, which he described as a “real hardship” to patients on the North and South forks.

Dr. Vacirca, whose cancer treatment center opened earlier this week at Route 58’s new Northville Commerce Park, said blood centers are integral to some of the therapies they use, particularly vaccine therapy programs for prostate cancer patients.

“Closing centers that could potentially serve these patients will certainly limit their access to these types of treatment,” he said. “It’s not adequate for the East End. How could they just limit their access like this?”

ryoung@timesreview.com