What the National Blood Shortage Means for Health Care and How You Can Help

Cooperstown, N.Y. – The Red Cross made national headlines in January by declaring a national blood crisis for the first time in its 140-year history. Their number of blood donors has been down 10 percent since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, decreasing their supply to a 10-year low. But experts are especially concerned as this low coincides with the Omicron surge and winter, when seasonal illnesses and weather decrease donations in the best of times. As a result, the Red Cross has started limiting how much blood health systems can keep on hand.

The Impact on Bassett Healthcare Network

“Prior to the blood supply announcement, each medical facility set its own stocking levels based on usage,” explains Veronica Park, Bassett’s network transfusion and tissue services manager. “For example, Bassett Medical Center’s stocking level for type O-positive blood has been 35 units. When we dipped below 25, we would re-order to replenish the supply.

But the Red Cross has started allocating how much blood Bassett Medical Center can order each day based on their supply and our history of use,” Park continues. “If our stock is good, we don’t have to order. But if we use more than usual, the Red Cross very likely won’t have anything left to give us. There is no extra reserve.”

Adjusting and Preparing

The biggest concerns center on Bassett Medical Center’s role as a trauma center. A significant emergency in the area could bring a sudden, unplanned and urgent need for blood. Even just a busier-than-normal season of winter automobile and snowmobile accidents could deplete reserves to dangerous levels.

Bassett Healthcare Network’s Incident Command team and senior leadership are preparing for those possible emergencies. “We have contingency plans in place for different scenarios,” says Tim Williammee, Network Laboratory Director. “We are prepared to make operational changes as needed to assure we can provide blood products to patients in need based on the urgency of the situation.”

Thankfully, nothing like that has happened so far at Bassett Healthcare Network, and the Red Cross’s allocation system has been meeting Bassett’s needs. The biggest network blood needs come from the Bassett Cancer Institute, Emergency Departments, and surgical procedures—demands that usually follow past years’ experiences. But that doesn’t make the adjustment any less challenging for those responsible for network blood supplies.

“It’s difficult for all of us on Bassett’s blood bank teams to adapt to these new processes,” says Park. “We are often unable to keep our usual stocking levels of blood on the shelf. We want to be ready with blood for anyone who needs it, even in cases of major trauma or urgent medical need. It is stressful not having an emergency buffer.”

Making a Difference

Unlike many of the strains the COVID-19 pandemic has placed on health care systems, the national blood shortage is one that community members can directly help resolve. “We’re doing everything we can to increase blood donations to ensure every patient can receive medical treatments without delay,” said Dr. Pampee Young, chief medical officer of the Red Cross in their recent press release. “But we cannot do it without more donors. We need the help of the American people.”

“The Red Cross is a national organization,” observes Park, “but unless there is a major disaster, donated blood stays in the community where it is given. So when someone gives blood, it directly helps their local hospitals—perhaps even someone they know. In fact, if you make your appointment through the Red Cross smart phone app, you can see which hospital your donation goes to.”

Most people over 16 years of age are eligible to donate blood. Although type O-negative blood, known as the universal donor, is the most readily usable, all types are urgently needed. Visit https://www.redcross.org/ to schedule an appointment, confirm your eligibility, and learn more.

 

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By Betty C. Giordano

Welcome to my site. My name is Betty C. Giordano and I am a blogger of everything related to mobile, news, events and reality in general. I hope you enjoy reading my content.

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