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Hospitals, blood banks in desperate need with only 1-day supply available

Posted at 5:38 PM, Jul 16, 2021

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. — Versiti is pleading with the West Michigan community to donate blood, as they consider it a "critical need" for supply. Their supply has been down during the pandemic, but even more so during the recent summer months when more blood is needed for emergencies.

Versiti says they only have a one-day supply for O negative blood, when they would typically have a four- to five-day supply available. In order to have a comfortable supply, roughly 550 Michiganders have to donate daily to maintain supply and restock before blood bags expire within the 45-day time frame.

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The blood bank blames the pandemic's canceling of community blood drives through schools, nonprofits and businesses that heavily contribute to blood supply. With those community events, the supply has been down roughly 40 percent from what is normal.

"We had high schools, colleges, universities, businesses cancel their blood drives because nobody was on campus. Nobody was in the office, and that attributed to 30 percent to 40 percent of our blood, so we have to find alternative ways to get those donors to come in and donate, and we have been struggling ever since," said Dawn Kaiser, area vice president of Versiti. "We’re doing everything possible between texts, emails, phone calls, smoke signals, whatever it takes to get donors to come in and roll up their sleeves."

Considering that one in every seven hospital admissions need a blood transfusion, the need is greater than ever. Spectrum Health currently says they have a 20,000-unit deficit, and the supply could quickly be drained if there are multiple emergencies or traumas doctors have to treat with transfusions.

"All it takes is a couple of bad accidents, what we call a massive transfusion protocol, which is where we have to give a lot of blood to save someone's life, for a variety of reasons or a trauma. If we had a couple of bad situations, we could clear it out our blood bank shelf pretty quickly," said Susan Smith, director of laboratory services at Spectrum.

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In some cases, doctors are doing rationing and conserving of resources to stretch out the supply longer.

"I will tell you we count every day, and we do communicate with our providers, when we see an area of risk. For example, maybe we would routinely give two units to a patient with certain diagnostic problems, we might recommend if we have a shortage that we say 'only give one unit,' or that we hold on giving certain blood products until we see a change. We are counting every day," said Smith.

At this time, the shortage has not become so terrible that the hospital is canceling elective surgeries. Spectrum does not anticipate that will happen unless things become more dire.

Both Versiti and Spectrum are urging you to consider donating if you are able. To qualify, you need to weigh 110lbs or more, pass a mini physical (which includes a temperature check, blood pressure pulse and a hemoglobin test) and be in good health. Most medications will not defer you from donating.

If you would like to donate, you can register HERE through Versiti.

RELATED: Red Cross talks urgent need for blood donations

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