No bad blood at Melbourne Processing Centre

By Erin Lagoudakis and Lauren Davis
Friday, 22 June, 2012

On 30 April 2012, the Australian Red Cross Blood Service opened the Melbourne Processing Centre - the largest blood processing facility in the Southern Hemisphere. Redesigned from a one-time car factory, the centre now processes all of Victoria’s and Tasmania’s blood; about 1500 blood donations per day.

Rebecca Dalton, Laboratory Manager for Nucleic Acid Testing and Central Sample Reception, describes what it’s like to work in the centre.

“The typical day of someone in Laboratory Services starts with the receipt, reconciliation and preparation of samples from collection centres around Victoria/Tasmania and external clients such as hospitals and cord blood banks. Samples are passed onto the mandatory testing laboratories.

“All the testing occurs concurrently on mostly fully automated platforms at the same time as the blood components are processed. Staff members work to tight deadlines to meet the release requirements of the products to ensure the availability of a safe blood supply. Lab staff routinely prepare testing reagents, maintain equipment, process samples, monitor results and quality controls, and manage testing consumables.”

It’s a busy job, but Manufacturing Manager Shane Winzar says the centre is firmly on track, as it is “designed to allow for increased demand over the next 30 years”.

“The new facility has provided a more efficient laboratory workflow and the ability to adapt and accommodate new technologies and processes as they arise,” he said.

“In addition to housing the Blood Service labs, the facility also houses, for the first time under the same roof, the Victorian Transplant Immunogenetics Service, which makes for more efficient servicing of the increased testing associated with organ transplantation.”

Dalton agrees: “One big change for my labs is now we’re co-located, which has led to more efficient workflow … we’re also experiencing benefits of having the Supply department on-site.”

The facility contains a variety of cutting-edge features. It can withstand an earthquake of seven on the Richter Scale and operate for four days without external water, gas, electricity and sewerage. It is also environmentally responsible, boasting sun shading, double glazing, a 55,000 L rainwater tank, a solar hot water system, water-efficient plumbing system, indoor plants, a waste management system and sensor-operated blinds and lighting.

The idea for the facility began one afternoon in 2008 at a meeting between the architect, the Blood Service and service engineers.

“We all got the dream. The innovation and creative energy that existed that afternoon has never wavered. The MPC is an alignment of everyone’s passion who worked on the project. It’s a really great example of what people can achieve if they work together,” said James Bargh, Blood Service’s National Property Manager.

Dalton, for one, believes the dream has paid off.

“The new building is fantastic; it’s great to work in an architecturally designed space that was developed for our needs,” she said.

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