SPRINGFIELD – In an effort to encourage more people to give blood, Gov. Rod R. Blagojevich today signed legislation to allow employees to take up to an hour off work to donate blood. House Bill 324, sponsored by Rep. Robert Rita (D-Crestwood), and Sen. William R. Haine (D-Alton), creates the Employee Blood Donation Leave Act, which allows local government and private sector full-time employees who work for companies with more than 50 employees to take an hour of paid leave to donate blood. The legislation is modeled after the Organ Donor Leave Act, which gives state employees time off to donate blood and organs.
“When you, your family member or your loved one has medical trouble, you want to know that there will be enough blood to treat them. We want to make sure that people who are willing to contribute to our emergency blood supply get the opportunity to do it,” Gov. Blagojevich said. “The Organ Donor Leave Act has been effective in encouraging state employees to donate blood. I believe this will do the same for the private sector and local government employees.”
Employees will be allowed to donate blood every 56 days if approval is granted from his or her employer. While employees must still give workers permission to take the hour off, having it in statute codifies its importance.
Blood centers across the state are currently experiencing a dangerous shortage in blood inventory. Chicago’s LifeSource, the largest supplier of blood and blood products in Illinois, needs 1500 donors a day in order to maintain a stable blood supply. At current levels, any major trauma could wipe the blood bank out of universal donor O-negative, the most commonly used type in traumas and accidents. The Mississippi Valley Regional Blood Center, which serves 34 counties in western Illinois, eastern Iowa, and southwestern Wisconsin, reports similar drops in inventory levels. For May alone, the Center was down 573 pints of blood, and for the year they are short 2,500 pints.
Because blood has a 42-day shelf life, it is important to keep a continual blood supply on hand. The need for blood not only arises after a catastrophe, but is constantly needed for surgeries and accident victims, as well as for cancer patients and those undergoing dialysis. According to the American Red Cross, under normal circumstances, every two seconds someone in America will need a blood transfusion. But, less than 5 percent of the eligible population actually donates blood.
“The need for blood donations is serious and shortages affect our local community blood banks," said Rep. Rita. "Every operation and organ transplant requires a large amount of blood. I sincerely hope that more employers will organize drives and take advantage of their new ability to give workers time to donate."
Rep. Rita said the bill was prompted by a constituent who often donated blood without the benefit of getting paid leave. The woman was aware of the provision for state workers and felt that if the benefit were extended to other workers in the state, more people would donate blood.
“It’s a great bill and I was proud to help sponsor it,” said Sen. Haine. “I’m pleased that Gov. Blagojevich has signed it and I believe it will help save lives.”
The legislation was supported by the American Red Cross and blood centers throughout the state.
“Rock River Valley Blood Center appreciates the Governor's support and recognition of the need to maintain an adequate and safe blood supply in the state of Illinois, especially as we enter the summer months when, historically, blood collections are lower and activities resulting in the need for blood increase,” said Linda Gerber, CEO of Rock River Valley Blood Center.
“We believe that this bill is an important step in enabling us to meet the state’s need for life-saving blood,” said Jack Prause, CEO, American Red Cross, Heart of America Blood Services Region in Peoria. “The legislation is a great opportunity to emphasize how important it is to donate blood and to make blood donation a regular and convenient process for the donor. This measure will further expand the important partnership between blood banks and employers. By increasing the opportunities to donate, more donors will be able to help save a life through their gift.”
House Bill 324 is effective January 1, 2006.