The area is experiencing a severe blood supply shortage, with the American Red Cross and American Cancer Society issuing a plea for donors.
It’s a perfect storm as fewer are donating because of the pandemic and summer arriving, and more patients are returning to hospitals for procedures that were delayed because of COVID-19, officials say.
However, Sturdy Memorial Hospital in Attleboro says it’s in good shape.
The hospital partners with the Rhode Island Blood Center for blood supply and places an order daily, spokeswoman Kathi Hague said.
“We have between 60 to 70 units of blood available for use at any given time,” Hague said. “We plan accordingly, have not delayed or cancelled any procedures, and at this time have not seen any effects of this shortage.”
The picture is drastically different at many other hospitals.
There are “extraordinary blood needs facing hospitals and patients right now,” said Jeff Hall of the American Red Cross of Massachusetts, based in Medford.
“The American Red Cross is experiencing a severe blood shortage as the number of trauma cases, organ transplants and elective surgeries rise and deplete the nation’s blood inventory,” Hall said. “Donors of all blood types — especially type O and those giving platelets — are urged to make an appointment to give as soon as possible to prevent delays to critical patient care.”
There is a great hospital demand for blood as people who deferred care during the height of the pandemic show up with more advanced disease progression, requiring increased blood transfusions, officials said.
Over the last three months, the Red Cross has distributed about 75,000 more blood products than expected to meet these needs. As a result of this shortage, some hospitals are being forced to slow the pace of elective surgeries until the blood supply stabilizes.
Blood is perishable and cannot be stockpiled, so it must constantly be replenished by donors, officials add.
Hospitals are responding to an atypically high number of traumas and emergency room visits, as well as overdoses and transplants, Red Cross officials said. In comparison to 2019, the Red Cross has seen demand from trauma centers climb by 10% in 2021 — more than five times the growth of other facilities that provide blood transfusions.
“When seconds count in emergency trauma situations, it’s the blood already on the shelves that can make the difference in lifesaving care,” said Dr. Jorge Rios, medical director of the Massachusetts Region. “As many people begin to enjoy travel and time with loved ones again this summer, patients are relying on the generosity of donors to help ensure they have access to the treatment they need. Please consider blood donation as a summer activity that can help save lives.”
As more than a third of Americans have become fully vaccinated, the Red Cross is winding down COVID-19 antibody testing for blood, platelet and plasma donations.
Through June 25, the Red Cross is testing all donations for COVID-19 antibodies. Testing may show possible exposure to the virus or whether a donor has developed an immune response to vaccination.
Coincidentally, June 19 is World Sickle Cell Day, an important day for the more than 100,000 individuals with sickle cell disease in the U.S. Most are of African descent and require regular blood transfusions to help manage their disease. Some may require as many as 100 units of blood per year.
The Red Cross is also screening all blood, platelet and plasma donations from self-identified African-American donors for the sickle cell trait.
Donors can expect to receive antibody test and sickle cell trait results within one to two weeks through the Red Cross Blood Donor App and the online donor portal at RedCrossBlood.org.
For those who have received COVID-19 vaccines, there is no waiting period before one can donate blood as long as donors are symptom-free, feeling well, know the name of their vaccine manufacturer and meet other donation eligibility requirements, officials point out.
Make your appointment by downloading the Red Cross Blood Donor App, visiting RedCrossBlood.org, calling 1-800-RED CROSS (1-800-733-2767) or enabling the Blood Donor Skill on any Alexa Echo device.
The following blood drives are being held in the area:
Wrentham — Tuesday, June 22, 1 to 6 p.m., Lake Pearl, 299 Creek St.
Franklin — Thursday, June 24, 1 to 6 p.m., Franklin Elks, 1077 Pond St.
South Attleboro — Saturday, June 26, 8 a.m. to 1 p.m., American Legion Post 312, 437 Newport Ave. (Route 123).
Foxboro — Wednesday, June 30, 1 to 6 p.m., St. Mary’s Church, 58 Carpenter St.
Franklin — Wednesday, June 30, 1 to 6 p.m., The Church of Jesus Christ of the Latter Day Saints, 91 Jordan Road.