The American Red Cross on Tuesday said it declared its first-ever "blood crisis" as it faces the worst national blood shortage in about a decade. San Diego Health leaders say the blood supply in our area is reaching a critical low point.
Despite the rising necessity for transfusions due to record hospitalizations, the Red Cross said it's seen a 10% decline in blood donations since the start of the pandemic. Low donor turnout has worsened since the delta variant began spreading — with the trend continuing as omicron also spreads.
"Until Tuesday, we could call the Red Cross and let them know that, 'Hey we are down 4 units of O-positive can you send us some more?' Just sort of in real-time and now, the announcement they sent basically said, 'You get what you get for the day and we can’t help you anymore,'" said Dr. Ghazala Sharieff Scripps Health Chief Medical Officer.
"Supplying 40% of the nation’s blood, the Red Cross has had to limit blood distributions to hospitals in recent weeks," the organization wrote. "Some hospitals may not receive as much as one-quarter of the blood products requested. Blood cannot be manufactured or stockpiled and can only be made available through the kindness of volunteer donors."
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Sharieff said that Scripps had to reach out to other local hospitals in the region asking for extra blood after it had two patients that needed massive transfustions and a cardiac surgery. Sharieff said they are reaching to the state to ask for help.
We need to figure this out – is it the National Guard that comes in – I understand we are not getting as many donations from the American Red Cross, but we can fix that – we can send out an alert, which we have already done, for people to donate blood. But they have a staffing shortage as well. There’s so many resources out there, but hospitals don’t have it. We can also get other people to come in and help," Sharieff said.
The non-profit is urging blood or platelet donations as soon as possible. Potential donors can make appointments online at RedCrossBlood.org, by calling 1-800-RED CROSS (1-800-733-2767) or by downloading the Red Cross Blood Donor phone app on the iPhone App Store or Android's Google Play.
Though donation of all types of blood is welcomed, blood types O positive and O negative, as well as platelet donation, are especially needed.
"One, people have not been donating, patients who have COVID, haven't been donating. But above that, other people are worried. They don't want to come in and donate blood. And I understand that fear as well. So we need donors. But we also need the staff to process," Sharieff said.