The nation is currently in blood shortage, the worst in more than a decade, according to the American Red Cross.
In fact, because of the shortage, the Brigham and Women’s Hospital came up with a plan in case her blood levels got too low.
Nationally, there is less than a one-day supply of some blood products, according to Kelly Isenor, spokesperson for the American Red Cross of Massachusetts.
“To put that into perspective – ideally the Red Cross likes to maintain a five day blood supply at all times,” she said in an email.
The shortage has been going on for months, according to Dr Richard Kaufman, medical director of the adult transfusion service at Brigham. Currently, the hospital has enough blood to continue as normal, he said.
Kaufman said part of the reason for the shortage is that hospitals are “sort of getting back to normal operations as things have improved with COVID-19 admissions,” but there have also been difficulties in collect blood.
“Only about 3% of eligible people donate blood,” he told Boston.com in a phone interview.
The Red Cross currently limits the amount of blood hospitals can purchase each day, Kaufman said. The organization also does not fill the hospital’s supply, for example if there was a medical emergency requiring a lot of blood. They distribute blood “as best they can”.
“They don’t have a reserve right now for emergencies,” Kaufman said.
Fortunately, Mass General Brigham has its own donation programs, but there are many hospitals across the country that rely entirely on the Red Cross or other blood collectors, according to Kaufman.
The reasons for the shortage are manifold, according to Isenor. These include a decline of about 10% in the number of donors since March 2020. The pandemic has also exacerbated the problem, with some places not allowing an outside agency like the Red Cross to use it to a journey, to the staffing shortages that are rampant across the country. in various industries. Sometimes a shortage of employees means the cancellation of a trip.
“The weather hasn’t helped either – since January 1, winter storms have forced the cancellation of approximately 600 blood drives across the country, meaning nearly 20,000 blood and platelet donations had to be collected,” Isenor said.
To prepare if the Brigham faces a shortage, Kaufman said a committee has been formed that will help choose where the blood goes. He said the maneuver was similar to when clinicians had to choose where ventilators would go during the shortage at the start of the pandemic. The committee is made up of clinicians and experts in transfusion medicine.
The group would be tasked with reviewing a list of elective surgeries and deciding which ones could be done and which should be delayed, he said.
“This group would try to make the best decisions to benefit the greatest number of people based on the data,” Kaufman said.
He encouraged those who are eligible to donate blood. The Kraft Family Blood Donor Center is associated not only with the Brigham, but also with Dana Farber. The phone number is 617-632-3206.
For Red Cross donations, Isenor said people can visit RedCrossBlood.org and search by zip code. There is also the Red Cross Blood Donor app. Donors can also call 1-800-RED-CROSS.
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