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Hospitals monitor blood supply amid critical shortage nationwide

Source: Live 5
Published: Jun. 25, 2021 at 3:33 PM EDT|Updated: Jun. 25, 2021 at 6:22 PM EDT
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CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCSC) - A critical blood shortage is on the cusp of crippling hospitals across the country, and some Lowcountry healthcare centers are feeling the impact in blood supply as well.

“I’ve done blood banking for 30 years, and this is the worst I’ve ever seen,” MUSC Dr. Jerry Squires said. He is the Medical Director of Transfusion Service with the Medical University of South Carolina.

“This blood shortage has been going on ever since the end of COVID...and the reason is that hospitals were unable to do surgeries for several months. Now all of those delayed surgeries are going to be scheduled, but nationally, the need for blood has gone up 10 to 15 percent,” Squires said. “The demand is up. The supply is down, and this is really a national problem.”

Squires said he is especially concerned about the blood supply over the long Fourth of July holiday weekend. He said MUSC officials are monitoring every single blood transfusion they are doing right now in hopes that they won’t have to start delaying or cancelling surgeries to protect their limited supply.

“MUSC so far has not had to cancel or delay any surgical procedures, but we’ve come very close,” Squires said. “This past weekend, we were down to just six units of O positive blood.”

Squires said those numbers are very concerning because the hospital typically uses more than 120 units for transfusion each day.

“That means that we are on the threshold of not having enough blood to do treat traumas, to support our transplant programs,” Squires said. “Delaying a surgery or delaying a transplant, particularly a transplant people have been waiting on for years or months or days would be a tragic situation. We are trying so hard not to do that.”

Squires said the Fourth of July holiday weekend is adding to that concern because blood centers have not been able to build up their inventory because of the pandemic and fewer donations.

“This year we are going into the fourth of July with a shortage that is simply going to be compounded on the fourth of July. It’s a very dangerous situation for the community,” Squires said.

MUSC officials are urging community members to get out and donate blood now, especially individuals who have O positive or O negative blood. Those types can be use with almost any patient.

Meanwhile, blood bank officials at Roper St. Francis said they are responding to the shortage by shuffling their supply among their facilities.

“We have experienced a back order like a delay where we order the product and we get half one day and half the next day,” Laboratory Director Vanessa Shamrock said. “We are fortunate to be a multi-campus system, so we are able to move product around to our 4 hospitals.”

However, there’s little hospitals can do to prepare for the unknown because blood has an expiration date.

“It’s a valuable commodity to begin with but, especially in the scenario of a shortage, you want to make sure you aren’t wasting anything,” Shamrock said.

The American Red Cross and the Blood Connection have sites across the Lowcountry to donate.

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