Health

Government Shutdown Exacerbates D.C. Blood Shortage

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While reports of the government shutdown affecting federally-funded cancer treatment trials and domestic violence programs (during Domestic Violence Awareness Month), there is yet another way the government shutdown is affecting health and human services albeit indirectly. According to Mother Jones Inova Blood Donor Services is expecting to lose over “300 donations that would have helped 900 patients” that would have otherwise come from blood drives at federal workplaces.

There are those who believe that the government shutdown is actually a good thing, because of Washington’s spending problem and the increasing size of the federal bureaucracy. Many government workers are seen as people who sign up for cushy jobs in which their primary function is to waste taxpayers’ money. However as Mother Jones points out, “for all the scorn heaped on government employees, some people forget that the faceless bureaucrats who populate Washington are often, in fact…people who genuinely believe in the notion of public service.”

There are no delusions that, while an immeasurably valuable service, that the people processing backlogged VA claims, for instance, do so solely out of a sense of patriotic responsibility. Some might, but most are simply doing a job. Yet, when that job is “civil service,” it makes people more likely to think of altruistic efforts, such as blood drives, as part of the gig. Washington D.C. blood reserves are already slight, and the lack of this significant donor pool will make it worse.

While the 800,000 federal workers who have been furloughed will receive back pay, it won’t come until the shutdown ends, as will the pay for the workers who still had to report for duty. While certain agencies’ agendas may be unpopular or controversial, the people who serve as human cogs in the federal machine are not the ones responsible for setting them.

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