The American Plasma Management Donor Center, target of one westside woman's anti-transient campaign, isn't a bank where drunks and bums can make easy withdrawals to buy cheap booze, the center's director said Wednesday.
Instead, the center, 606 W. North Temple, provides thousands of dollars in medical services to Salt Lake City and is a needed source of money for low-income men, women and families struggling to make ends meet.Director Jamie Sielatycki conducted a tour of the center for city officials and reporters to correct misconceptions that the center promotes transient problems in the westside area.
"I want to show that a lot of good comes out of the center," said Sielatycki.
Judi Wardle, who lives a block from the donor center, last week presented a petition to the city council demanding the business be closed or moved, charging transients are donating plasma and using the proceeds to get drunk.
But Sielatycki said Wardle's ideas about business at the center are incorrect and he wants to allay fears she has generated.
"I think the impression that we have a lot of drunks and bums coming in here isn't accurate," he said. "That's as detrimental to our business as it would be to anyone else's business."
Ninety-two percent of all donors at the center, only blocks from a homeless shelter under construction, are regular patrons, Sielatycki said. Extensive medical records are kept of all patrons, he added.
"We don't just take anybody off the street," he said. Donors also must undergo a series of stringent medical tests before donating. Drunks are thrown out of the center and aren't re-admitted, he said.
Although blood-alcohol content is not measured, potential donors are interviewed by as many as seven technicians to determine if they're sober. A liver test also can catch symptoms of long-term alcohol abuse, he said.
Additionally, donors are tested for Hepatitis B and the HIV virus, an AIDS-related virus. Examinations for syphilis and other ailments also are conducted periodically, he said.
Plasma - actually only the fluid part of whole blood - donated at the center is sent to Los Angeles, where it is made into pharmaceutical supplies. Some is used for research at the University of Utah, Sielatycki said.
The $8 per donation, which can be made twice weekly, is vital for the patrons, most of whom are low-income people. Donations can be made often because plasma is removed from whole blood, leaving red blood cells that are returned to the patron.
"A lot of these people have families and children and they don't quite make enough to get by, to get that loaf of bread, that carton of milk," Sielatycki said.
Yearly physical exams regular donors must undergo and periodic medical tests done at the center also are of great value to people who typically do not enjoy good medical care.
Moreover, the center provides 25 full-time jobs in economically depressed west-side Salt Lake City and pumps $30,000 to $35,000 monthly in cash into the economy via payments for donations.
Wardle said transients are causing problems by getting drunk on money from the center. Patrick Sorenson, a city policy analyst, confirmed some transients are selling plasma, "peeling off their Band-Aids" and using the money to buy booze at a state liquor store at 54 N. Eighth West.
"We can't control what they do with their money, but we ensure that when they come in here, they have not been drinking," Sielatycki said.
"But if the problem is alcohol," he added, "perhaps that should be looked at more closely. I don't believe that giving blood for a little extra money is the problem."
"I think that Mrs. Wardle's problems stem from the liquor store," City Councilwoman Florence Bittner said, suggesting that the liquor store and another at 205 W. Fourth South be closed to prevent the homeless from buying alcohol there.
Bittner said American Plasma does, however, have a "public relations problem" and should work closely with nearby residents on homeless issues.