Philadelphia hospitals are facing a severe shortage of blood for donations. A decline in donors and an increase in trauma and surgeries have contributed to the worst blood shortage in more than a decade in the region.
Alana Mauger who serves as regional communications manager of the American Red Cross, said that although to have fewer donors during the summer months is a regular occurrence, this year has showed a significant decrease.
“As COVID cases began to spike in August, we saw about a 10% decrease in the number of blood donors that are coming out to give blood,” she said. “And at the same time, the demand for blood from hospitals has remained higher than normal.”
As reported by WHYY, the supply was lower than usual, and the need for blood was greater than usual. Dr. Meenakshi Bewtra, assistant professor of medicine and epidemiology at the University of Pennsylvania explained that people would require blood transfusions due to accidents but unfortunately they could get a condition that may require a blood transfusion. “So you have a new disease that requires transfusions on top of everything else and a real decrease in supply.”
As residents returned to their “normal” routines with the lifting of the most strict coronavirus restrictions and the rollout of vaccines experts expected an increase of blood donations during the fall. However, organizations like the American Red Cross are seeing a 10% decrease in donors.
Mauger said some of these instances of blood shortage may be the result of continued coronavirus safety protocols, as schools and businesses may be unwilling to open their doors to hold a blood drive, or the continued fear some people have of going to public places.
The low supply is affecting hospitals in the area, and how they operate. For many people in trauma situations, whether a car accident or an emergency surgery, this could be very serious.
Philadelphia’s gun violence epidemic has added an extra dimension to the situation. Bewtra said she has heard from her surgeon colleagues at the hospital that it takes less blood to help someone who has been injured in a car accident than in a shooting, leading to some difficult decisions.
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“The blood is much more lost and their life is at stake, so we are simultaneously trying to save their life while just getting them blood products. If you have a limit of available blood products, if you have to stop that protocol and recheck and wait to recheck and call the blood bank and say, ‘can I get another unit or another two units,’ that’s an uncomfortable position for everybody in that operating room, and there are things that are preventable.”
Public health officials and blood banks are urging people to donate if they are able. Donors can visit the Red Cross website for more information about how and where to give blood in the region.
Mauger said that educating others about the blood shortage is a valuable option. She suggests you can also sponsor a blood drive for your community or business.