Price of Blood at Knoxville Hospitals in 1954

Price of Blood and Method of Repayment Differ at Each of Knox’s Four Hospitals

Knoxville News-Sentinel, January 7, 1954, Page 10

A person sick enough to need a blood transfusion has neither the time nor the strength to make a round of hospitals to find where he can get the best deal.  But if he did he would find a different blood program in each of Knoxville’s four hospitals.

And such a tour might end in confusion for the patient, as he would be quoted a different price on a pint of blood at each hospital.  He would also find that one hospital requires three pints of blood in repayment for one pint, if the patient chooses to have his friends come in and give blood rather than pay for it straight out.

Fort Sanders Hospital asks three pints in return for one pint, and John H. Talmadge, assistant administrator, explains it this way:

Fort Sanders uses the facilities of the Knoxville Blood Center, an independent organization which supplies blood at a cheaper price than commercial blood suppliers.

The patient pays $22.50 for each pint administered to him, $5 of which is for the blood itself and $10 for processing.  The other $7.50 is the hospital’s service charge.  For this package deal, the patient may either pay the $15 per pint, or repay with three pints given by donors.

“We entered this program in September by agreement with the staff, and we entered it with the idea of giving patients cheaper prices, and also with the idea of helping the community to build up a blood reserve that could be used in the event of disaster.

“We have had a difficult time explaining this to some patients, and I spent about two hours trying to explain it to one.  We have had some complaints and may have to go back to our old system.  Before, we had to charge $35 a pint for blood,” Mr. Talmadge said.

St. Mary’s Hospital has its own blood-processing facilities, as do Baptist and General Hospitals, and all three do some buying from commercial houses out of the state.

The price at St. Mary’s is $35 for the first pint and $17.50 a pint thereafter, plus a $15 service charge.

If payment is by blood instead of money, the hospital charges two pints in return for the first pint administered and pint-for-pint thereafter.

Officials explained that the two pints or double price for the first pint is a policy set up to compensate for wastage, since in any hospital blood program, a certain amount of blood is never used.  Whole blood cannot be used after 21 days, and a certain amount is found in laboratory tests to be diseased.

At both Baptist Hospital and General Hospital, blood is repaid on a pint-for-pint basis.  The cost to the patient at Baptist is $35 a pint, and the service charge is $15.  General Hospital puts down a memo charge of $25 a pint, plus a $15 service charge, but prefers that the patient repay with donor blood rather than money.

Baptist officials say the hospital assumes the loss, if any develops due to wastage.  It operates its own blood bank, but buys commercially if the need arises.

T. H. Haynes, administrator at General, said the hospital rarely runs into a situation where it must buy from a commercial house, but occasionally this is necessary.

The service charge is something that many patients do not understand, hospital officials say.  Some patients think the price of the blood should include the cost of administering.

But a great deal of work goes into processing blood and giving it to the patient.  The charges include such items as laboratory tests, technicians’ salaries, overhead, administration and various other expenses.  Materials used in processing and storing blood are also expendable.  A bottle is used once and then thrown away.

Then, too, when the occasion arises that a hospital must buy commercial blood, long-distance calls must be made and someone has to pay the cost of shipping the blood in by air express.

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