Super Lawyers
William C. Altreuter

Friday, July 18, 2008

I was interested, but hardly surprised by yesterday's NYTimes article about the problems the American Red Cross is experiencing with its blood collection services. Because I'm a platelets donor I get called once a month or so, and have had a chance to regularly observe the inefficiencies in our local operation. I can only imagine that it turns into a worse muddle as it scales. I don't get the sense that there is any coordination between the place that's calling and the donation center, for example. Every time I go, I am subjected to the same history process, even though the the answer to the question about how much time, if any, I have spent living abroad in the period between 1980 and 1990 will never change; even though it is obvious that I haven't had a brain dura graft in the last four weeks. The entire screening process makes me feel like I've lived a very boring, sheltered existence, which is not how I usually feel about my interesting, exciting life. Okay, I haven't been in prison, or juvenile detention, and I haven't been to Africa, or paid for sex, but I've done other things-- I was into the Ramones, like, as soon as their first album was released, and I've been to CBGBs. Maybe I don't eat squirrel brains, but I had some iffy looking oysters once.

I'd like to know more about how the Red Cross is run, but it seem pretty obvious that major changes have to be made if they are looking at board liability after five years of not being able to fix the problems. I'd spin off the disaster relief operation first, and then I would look into breaking the organization down into much smaller regional organizations-- and I mean much smaller, not Northeast/Southeast, etc., and not 50 state Red Crosses, either. Counties might be too small, but it looks to me like the Red Cross is at the point where the economies of scale have been consumed by the inefficiencies of scale, and that can't go on. I give blood because I believe that it is an important social responsibility-- there is no substitute for it, and therefore, if you are healthy you owe it to the community you live in to donate. Even though I fell this way, I have no particular affection for the Red Cross, which I suspect underpays its front line employees, and takes advantage of its reputation to exploit volunteers who should be compensated. I would never contribute money to the organization as it is presently configured, because it looks to me like a classic example of overhead eating up the mission

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