The national blood supply is reaching critical levels; UH ‘challenged’ to maintain patient care; Summa Health Holds Employee Blood Drive to Boost Supply

CLEVELAND, Ohio — The worst blood shortage in more than a decade is endangering patient care in parts of the country.

For the past few weeks, the American Red Cross – which provides nearly 40% of the nation’s blood – had less than a one-day supply of critical blood types. Doctors in some parts of the country have been forced to decide which patients will receive blood transfusions immediately and which should wait, the Red Cross said.

Locally, University Hospitals are triaging and reviewing blood needs to care for as many patients as possible during the blood shortage, Dr. Christine Schmotzer, vice president of systemic pathology operations at UH.

“Every day it gets harder and harder to maintain that level of care,” Schmotzer said in an email. “Blood donations remain an urgent need for our community.”

Blame the blood shortage on the COVID-19 pandemic, which has led to Red Cross staff shortages and fewer blood drives.

“It’s almost a perfect storm of things that have happened, especially in the last two years,” said Jill Trupo, Acting Regional Director of Donor Services for the Northern Ohio Red Cross.

The Northern Ohio Red Cross includes the Toledo area to the Pennsylvania border and south to the Akron/Canton area. There are Red Cross offices in downtown Cleveland, Akron and Parma.

Overall, the country’s blood supply has declined since March 2020.

Patient care at the Cleveland Clinic, Summa Health and MetroHealth System was unaffected, but Summa Health is holding employee blood drives to help bolster the blood supply.

Another collection agency is also noticing a shortage of blood. American Blood Centers, a network of nonprofit community blood centers in the United States and Canada, reports that 26% of its blood centers in the Midwest have a 0-1 day blood supply and 37% have a 1-2 day supply days. The organization’s Midwest region includes 16 states from Ohio to Montana.

The Red Cross is partnering with the NFL this month in an effort to inspire more people to donate blood during National Blood Donor Month. Those who donate blood, platelets or plasma will automatically be entered for a chance to win two tickets to the next Super Bowl LVI in Los Angeles, as well as a home theater package and a $500 e-gift card.

The Red Cross in this area holds large blood drives open to the public and can collect more blood than drives at individual businesses, Trupo said.

“Our goal is to have as many appointments on the calendar as possible,” she said.

The pandemic accused of a blood crisis

The pandemic has reduced donation opportunities for donors.

Company-sponsored blood drives were canceled because employees were working remotely or a limited number of people were allowed in the building, Trupo said.

There has been a 62% drop in blood drives in schools and colleges since the start of the pandemic, for similar reasons.

Some repeat donors feel uncomfortable attending a blood drive due to concerns related to COVID-19, Trupo said. And some have found their giving routine disrupted.

“Let’s say they used to donate to their office or their school, and now we’re past that. They fall out of practice,” she said.

The Red Cross has implemented COVID-19 sanitation measures at its donation sites and is enforcing social distancing and the wearing of masks, she said.

Roll up your sleeves to help

Here’s how you can help alleviate the blood shortage:

* Go to make an appointment to make a donation. Type O blood donations are especially needed.

* If you cannot donate blood, volunteer to help with blood drives.

*If you are unsure if you can donate blood, see the eligibility criteria on the Red Cross website.

* Have a snack and make sure you are well hydrated before your appointment.

* Do not engage in physical activity after donating blood.

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