Riley moves blood bank ahead of $142M project completion

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INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. -- While hundreds of hospitals turn to third parties to manage their blood supply, Riley Children's Hospital has brought back its blood bank to its own facility.

FOX59's Beairshelle Edmé found out what that means for patients, especially new Hoosier moms and their babies who face a staggeringly high mortality rate.

Time is of the essence at Riley, and the hospital is cutting down on the time it takes to get blood to their patients.

"We have a window out there where we can actually hand them (medical staffers) the units of blood," explained Heather Vaught, the director of transfusion medicine and laboratories for IU Health's Academic Health Centers.

Riley doctors and nurses aren't waiting on a transport van.

At most, they wait for an elevator, and if that's too long, the medical staff can walk down the steps to the hospital's blood bank.

In March, the hospital moved its blood bank in-house.

The move shifts away from a major change 13 years ago, when blood banks at IU Health's downtown hospitals consolidated into one central lab by the Canal.

"You can centralize a chemistry lab, you can centralize a hematology lab, but it's really hard to centralize a blood bank because we have to set our product out to the patients," Vaught detailed. "When you add that transit time, it can really delay a patient's care."

For Indiana moms and their children, that delay could be deadly.

"Being the only Level 1 Trauma Center in the state, we get the sickest of the sick," said Dr. Brian Wagers, an assistant professor of clinical emergency medicine and pediatrics.

Riley also became a Level 4 NICU, and in 2016, the hospital launched the Maternity & Newborn Health Program.

"We really needed to have a blood bank inside this hospital," Vaught said.

Riley's program created a statewide network to give the highest level of care for at risk moms and their babies.

The program is a resource for Indiana, which the CDC and state department of health ranks third in the nation for moms dying and seventh for babies.

"So we can get those blood products to mom, baby, injured child, whatever it may be," Wagers explained. "We can get it to them as soon as they can possibly get it."

For Dr. Wagers and his team, Riley's new program also means there already is and will be an increased need for blood.

"We always had access to blood before, but having it right here allows us to continue to evolve," he said.

Part of Riley's evolution is a $142 million dollar maternity tower, which accompanies the newly launched program.

It's expected to be completed by the fall of 2020, and Dr. Wagers and dozens of others will have a key resource at their fingertips when it does.

Hospital administrators say that was the plan, a Riley blood bank that meets the needs of Indiana and regional families now and in the future.

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