Hospitals forced to think outside of the box as blood shortage reaches new low

Coronavirus

COLUMBUS, Ga. (WRBL) – In June News 3 spoke with Transfusion Safety Officer for Piedmont Healthcare System Kristal Baker and Doctor Baia Lasky about a nationwide blood shortage due to the COVID-19 pandemic. At the time the two were hopeful with the country beginning to reopen blood donations would rise and the shortage would get better. Unfortunately, Baker said this is not the case.

Baker shared the current situation is hospital and healthcare workers biggest fear.

“Our biggest fear as a hospital system is that when we have a significant, a catastrophic event such as a massive transfusion protocol when there’s been a multi-vehicle accident or something massively catastrophic that the blood just isn’t there,” said Baker. “And our biggest fear is what do we do when we don’t have those resources because we are actually there, we are there.”

Baker explained the shortage is being caused by a combination of things including fatigue. In addition to this, the summer months usually replenish the blood supply which helps them get through the Holiday season, when they typically see less donors, but this year that was not the case.

The supply is so low that Baker said Red Cross sent a message to all hospitals asking them to try to reduce their blood usage by 10%.

This means hospitals are having to think outside of the box and figure out ways to minimize usage of blood.

Baker said things like the intermittent cancelling of elective surgeries may have to continue because of the shortage. She also said Piedmont is piloting a program where they are asking healthcare providers to not go straight to blood as the first line of response for treating patients, and to make sure they are only ordering the amount of blood units their patients need and not more.

In addition to this the hospital system and it’s healthcare providers are looking into other alternative options for blood treatment.

“We have other alternatives like for instance our Jehovah Witness populations do not accept blood products so how do we treat them? Well we have other alternatives in order to treat them successfully,” said Baker. “And so that’s one of the things as the Transfusion Safety Officer I am trying to work with local hospitals within our system to develop strategies such as this as a supplement to blood in order for us to be able to continue to efficiently treat our patients.”

Baker urges all who are eligible to give blood to do so as soon as possible to help this critical situation.

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:

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