THE Griffith community is reeling following news the Griffith blood bank will close its doors for the final time next week.
Despite plans to build a new facility close to being finalised, NSW Donor Services manager Steven Eldridge made the unexpected announcement on Wednesday, breaking the news to eight shocked staff members, who have been offered redundancy packages.
The Griffith Donor Centre, which has been operating for close to 50 years is located at Griffith Base Hospital and will be replaced by a mobile collection service travelling over from Wagga for two days every six weeks.
"We haven't made this decision lightly. Staff are obviously upset but we are hoping to support them throughout the process. We reached a difficult crossroad with Griffith Donor Centre where our current tenancy expires soon, and so we decided to look for a new donor centre to continue collections," Mr Eldridge said.
"Yet, as we were reviewing this opportunity, we discovered that the number of donors in Griffith has dropped by nearly 50 percent in the past three years and our forward projections tell us that this decline is set to continue, which makes it difficult to justify the expense of building or leasing a new site, especially when we can provide a mobile service for donors.
The news came as a massive blow to staff, who had only just signed off on design plans for a new donor centre three weeks ago.
Long-time volunteer Cathy Lane said the announcement had left staff, volunteers and donors upset and dumbfounded.
"Everybody is absolutely devastated," she said.
"I've been volunteering for 14 years and all of the volunteers are cheesed off because this has left staff in tears because their lives have been turned upside down.
"The way they have done this is appalling. I'm angry because Griffith is losing a personalised service. The donors have become friends with the staff.
"I can't understand it. I know it's a business decision, but they say it's because donor numbers have dropped but bringing an impersonal mobile service won't encourage donors."
Local donors Maree and Geoffrey Smith agree, calling the decision to replace the donor centre with a mobile service "outrageous".
"We are very disappointed for the staff and the community. Griffith has lost yet another service," Mrs Smith said.
"Each time I made a donation at the centre I considered I was doing an important service. If I was at the hospital having an X-ray I'd pop down and make a donation.
"People from out of town come in when they've got time.
"By taking the facility away it's definitely limiting the opportunity to donate."
The Griffith centre will make its final collections on Thursday, April 17 with the mobile service expected to start in June.