Hospitals face shortage of donated blood

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GREENFIELD – The blood supply in Indiana and around the country is facing a dangerous shortage, with organizations warning that the problem could pose significant obstacles to medical care and encouraging people who are able to donate blood to do so.

A number of factors have led to the shortage, including the continued impact of the COVID-19 pandemic and the latest surge of omicron variant cases. Recent weather disasters, as well as a typical drop in appointments during the holiday season, have exacerbated that trend.

Janet Strauch, director of laboratory services at Hancock Regional Hospital, said the hospital hasn’t yet had to cancel any surgeries or elective procedures because of the shortage, but is carefully monitoring the situation.

“We constantly are monitoring the supply and our daily levels,” she said.

Versiti Blood Centers of Indiana issued an emergency appeal for blood donations, saying it currently has less than a day’s supply of blood on hand.

“This is the lowest the blood supply has been in a decade, and it is dangerous,” said Dr. Dan Waxman, vice president of transfusion medicine and senior medical director at Versiti. “Without blood readily available, patients’ lives could be at risk. Trauma patients may not have the blood needed for treatment; cancer patients may not have the blood needed for transfusions. It is dire. We urge those who are able to make an appointment to donate today.”

The American Red Cross reported a similar situation, calling its national blood shortage the worst in 10 years. In a news release, the organization said as much as one-quarter of hospital demand for donor blood is not being met.

“Our inventory is truly at crisis levels,” the organization said. “Right now, doctors are being forced to decide which patients receive blood transfusions and who must wait.”

According to the Red Cross, the COVID-19 pandemic has decreased blood donations by about 10% overall and led to frequent cancellations of blood drives and staffing shortages. The organization said about 60% of its slots for Indiana donation appointments in the next month are unfilled.

Strauch said blood banks are able to borrow from each other and that in the event the shortage impacts HRH, patients who need emergency or essential surgeries will be prioritized. To help prevent the situation from getting to that point, though, she encouraged people to donate blood.

“Anyone that is eligible and healthy who’s able to donate and is willing to, they’d be definite heroes,” she said.

All blood types are needed for donations, with types O-positive and O-negative being the most in demand.

To schedule an appointment to donate blood through Versiti, Indiana residents can call 317-916-5150 or visit versiti.org. The organization has donation centers in Indianapolis, Fishers and Carmel, among other locations.

To make an appointment through the Red Cross, prospective donors can use the Red Cross Blood Donor App, visiting RedCrossBlood.org or calling 1-800-RED-CROSS (1-800-733-2767). Volunteers are also needed to staff blood drives and to transport blood donations. To learn more about becoming a volunteer, visit redcross.org/volunteertoday.

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