HENRICO COUNTY, Va. (WRIC) — Hospitals across the country and in Virginia are experiencing a severe blood shortage. Hospital staff members are calling on Virginia blood donors for help.
Tens of thousands of blood drives were canceled in the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, but now hospitals are facing a different problem. Health experts say this blood crisis is due to a number of factors.
According to the American Red Cross, hospital staff are responding to a rise in emergency room, overdose and transplant visits. With a limited blood inventory, hospitals will potentially be forced to put scheduled surgeries on hold. In addition to an increase in hospital demand, more people are traveling as pandemic restrictions are easing. With more traffic comes an increase in car accidents and trauma cases.
Jonathan McNamara is the regional communications director with the American Red Cross. According to McNamara, in comparison to 2019, the Red Cross has seen demand from trauma centers climb by 10% in 2021. This is more than five times the growth of other facilities that provide blood transfusions.
Current blood collections are not meeting the demand, and the organization is trying to play catch up.
Also, delayed elective surgeries due to the pandemic caused a progression in certain patients’ diseases.
“If you’re a donor out in the community, we need you right now,” said McNamara.
McNamara told 8News, over the last three months, the Red Cross has distributed around 75,000 more blood products than expected to meet these needs.
Natalie Case is the Technical Manager of Transfusion services for the HCA Healthcare Virginia market. Case is also a Medical Laboratory Scientist and specializes in blood banking. According to Case, blood donations typically decrease during the Summer, but Summer 2021 is especially problematic as the country attempts to come out of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“We have experienced shortages in the past, but nothing like this nationally.” This is the worst I’ve ever seen it,” said Case.
According to Case, people were delaying seeking care during the pandemic. Healthcare workers are having to juggle a large increase in blood usage combined with a normal decrease in inventory during this time of year. Case told 8News, HCA Healthcare is using strategic ways to move products around the different facilities, so everyone has an inventory of blood. So far, staff hasn’t had to postpone elective surgeries, but the potential is on their radar.
Barbara Batson gives blood regularly at the American Red Cross and knows it’s crucial.
“Having been in the hospital with surgeries through the years, it’s nice that people give blood,” said Batson.
According to McNamara, all blood types and people of all ethnicities are needed. The non-profit organization needs a diverse set of blood to reflect the diverse community. Blood type O is especially needed.
“It’s a very personal choice to give blood and there’s a donor at the other end of that donation that we want to make sure can be able to receive that donation when they need it,” said McNamara.
Blood is perishable and cannot be stockpiled. Health experts recommend that people consistently donate so the supply is constantly replenished.
“It’s our job at the Red Cross to provide that blood and we can only do it with donors here in the community to answer the call, to make donations to the Red Cross, and make sure that doctors and nurses don’t have to make challenging decisions,” said McNamara.
To find a full list of blood drives in your area, visit the American Red Cross.
Those who come to give now through June 30 will receive a $5 Amazon gift card via email, courtesy of Amazon.