COLUMBUS, Ga. (WRBL) – As the country opens back up and coronavirus restrictions are relaxed, hospitals, blood donation centers and collectors are seeing an increase in demand and a shortage in supply.
Health officials from the American Red Cross and Piedmont Healthcare Systems said the increase in demand for blood is being caused by a number of things like increased traumas, postponed care due to the COVID-19 pandemic and more.
Dr. Baia Lasky Medical Director for the American Red Cross biomedical services said the combination of increased demand and shortage in supply is leaving blood suppliers shelves at a severe low.
“Right now the American Red Cross is experiencing a severe blood shortage. We are in need both of red cells and platelets,” said Dr. Lasky. “We have an ongoing need, people are always sick we always have traumas, obstetric emergencies, premature babies, cancer patients but because of this increased demand we are, it is leaving our shelves as fast as we can collect it.”
Kristal Baker Manager of Transfusion Safety Quality Surveillance and Analyst for the Piedmont Health Care System said it’s not just the American Red Cross that is experiencing this shortage.
“It’s not just Red Cross that is struggling to get donors through their doors it’s all blood vendors, it’s all collectors because when we can’t get blood from Red Cross to fulfill our need we have to go to our secondary vendors,” said Baker. “Red Cross is our primary, Piedmont’s primary vendor for blood, but we also have secondary vendors and they also can not supply us with these same products that we’re seeking so that becomes a critical thing.”
Baker also said serving different areas and demographics they’re tracking different trends of blood usage.
“One of the things we’ve seen, we have a really wide variety of hospitals within our system, from large to very small in the rural populations and so with that variety in the demographics we see a variety in our patients,” said Baker. “In our Columbus hospitals we have a lot more traumas due to, you know the setting in Columbus. We’re seeing an increase actually in traumas with gunshot victims, in knife victims. So we’re seeing some increasing in that and I think that has a lot to do with the fall out of the pandemic.”
Dr. Lasky explains another issue contributing to the shortage is the postponing of care because of the pandemic and how some of these patients now have more serious health problems.
“Patients who have had delayed care or postponed care during the pandemic are now coming in with more advanced diseases and requiring more blood,” said Dr. Lasky. “So really this is a challenge with both getting people into our donor centers and mobile drives to collect blood but also the increase in usage.”
Dr. Lasky said part of the challenge to get donors through the door was the pandemic ending blood donation events at schools, sporting events and other large social gatherings, forcing them to rely heavily on appointment donations. Another part is trying to get new generations to become frequent donors.
“The population that was donating are now becoming a higher percentage of our patients,” said Dr. Lasky. “So it’s a balancing act of how to keep the new generation coming in to support that.”
According to the American Red Cross only 3% – 4% of eligible donors, actually donate. If you are eligible and are looking for a place in our area to donate, here is a list of sites where you can enter your zip code and find donation centers with available appointments near you: