Monday, January 17, 2022

Hospitals confirm dire conditions after Red Cross declares blood crisis

Health officials across the country are warning of trauma center closures, postponed surgeries and forced delays in the treatment of patients undergoing chemotherapy amid what the American Red Cross is now calling a national blood crisis.

“This affects every group of patients we care about,” Dr. India Sisler, clinical director of pediatric hematology and oncology at VCU Health System in Virginia, told HuffPost on Thursday of the current shortage, which she called the worst ever. what she saw in her 15 years. years of practice.

“Right now we’re in a position where we have to triage patients and only use blood products for patients who are in immediate danger of life,” said Sisler, who treats children with cancer and blood disorders. According to Sisler, these shortages are a heavy burden not only for her young patients, but also for parents who fear the worst for their children.

“If there is a couple of major injuries, then the blood supply is depleted and their child, who needs transfusions to live, may not receive blood. So there is a lot of anxiety going on,” she said.

A woman donates blood in San Francisco on Tuesday. The Red Cross is urging people to donate blood after the non-profit organization declared a national blood crisis this week.

Justin Sullivan via Getty Images

The AABB, American Blood Centers and the American Red Cross released a joint statement on Monday calling for donations amid what is being called the worst blood shortage in more than a decade. As of Thursday, 34% of national public blood centers have a one-day or less blood supply, according to the American Blood Centers, which provides nearly 60% of the US blood supply through its member organizations’ blood collection sites.

The Red Cross, which is said to provide about 40% of the national blood supply, attributed the current decline in blood donations to the fact that COVID-19 has disrupted donor turnout, canceled blood appointments, created staffing issues and fueled misinformation about donor rights. Winter weather is also blamed for the fall.

“On certain days, some hospitals may not receive up to a quarter of the requested blood products,” the Red Cross said in a statement. “Blood cannot be produced or stored, it can only be made available through the kindness of volunteer donors.”

In Los Angeles County, the nation’s most populous, health officials said one of the trauma centers at Harbor-UCLA Medical Center was forced to close a couple of hours earlier this week due to a lack of blood.

Stocks of blood have fallen to their lowest level in more than a decade, leaving some US blood centers with less than a day's supply of certain blood types, according to the Red Cross.
Stocks of blood have fallen to their lowest level in more than a decade, leaving some US blood centers with less than a day’s supply of certain blood types, according to the Red Cross.

Justin Sullivan via Getty Images

“We have not only ever-growing outbreaks of COVID-19 on our doorstep, but also [the] the associated lack of medical care as a result – but now we also have a national blood shortage crisis that has begun to take its toll on Los Angeles County hospitals,” Dr. Christina Ghali, county health director, told HuffPost. “Everyone has been focused on COVID-19, but we urgently need to focus some of our attention and efforts on blood donation.”

Fortunately, not all hospitals face such dire conditions, including those located in regions where blood centers have been hardest hit, such as the Northeast, according to Blood Centers of America.

At New York-Presbyterian/Weill Cornell in New York City, medical teams have been asked to be mindful of the use of blood, said Dr. Robert DeSimone, director of the department of transfusion medicine, but otherwise the hospital was not directly affected by the blood transfusion. a lack of.

“We have definitely sent out some emails around the hospital just to remind everyone that there is a slight blood shortage right now and please be careful only use blood when you really need it, treat it like a valuable resource. don’t waste it. it,” he told HuffPost.

Like DeSimone, Sisler has paid tribute to those who run her medical center’s blood bank for allowing patients to continue working without repercussions during previous supply disruptions. Unfortunately, these past few weeks have been unprecedented in her area, she said.

“Everyone has been focused on COVID-19, but we urgently need to focus some of our attention and efforts on blood donation.”

– Dr. Christina Ghali, Director of Health Services for Los Angeles County.

Sisler said she has personally seen chemo patients who had to delay treatment because the therapy can lower their blood counts, requiring a blood transfusion.

There are also some patients with rare blood diseases who require regular blood transfusions because they cannot produce red blood cells on their own. Instead of getting one transfusion every three weeks, they may get one transfusion every four or five. People who are anemic may also have to refuse blood transfusions because without it, it is not considered an immediate threat to life.

“So the amount of time they feel terrible and have symptoms has increased. It puts an increased strain on their heart, lungs, their body due to such anemia, and we can’t think about the long-term consequences of this, we just need to look at the short-term consequences,” she said.

Sisler urged potential donors to visit the Red Cross website to make an appointment to donate blood, saying the nonprofit can help prioritize areas that need more blood than others “to be fair and equitable.”

She noted that recent media reports have encouraged people to register to donate locally, which has resulted in some meetings being rescheduled. But since the blood shortage isn’t expected to go away anytime soon, she urged people to take whatever space they can.

“We will need these donations in two weeks, in three weeks, in four weeks, just like we need them today,” she said. “So we’re really just encouraging people to find a slot at any time to help us get through this.”

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