Tuesday, January 25, 2022
Jan. 25, 2022

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Blood supply critical in Northwest, nationwide as COVID stems donations

By , Columbian staff writer

The American Red Cross is facing the worst blood shortage in more than a decade.

Nationwide, as much as one-quarter of all hospital blood needs are not being met because the demand for blood is greater than the supply, according to Angel Montes, Red Cross regional donor services executive.

“I’ve been with this organization for 18 years, and I haven’t seen it this bad,” Montes said. “I have never seen us not be able to provide the products that hospitals need when they’re requesting it.”

Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, the Red Cross has experienced a 10 percent decline in blood donations. Schools and colleges — once the most popular blood drive locations — have declined by 62 percent. Generation Z made up one-third of all blood donations in 2019. In 2021, they made up 10 percent.

In the Northwest, inclement weather has led to substantial blood drive cancellations, Montes said.

The Red Cross is putting out a call for help.

The most critical need at this time is for O-positive and O-negative blood, but anyone who can donate is encouraged to visit www.redcrossblood.org or call 1-800-733-2767 to schedule an appointment.

Rachel Cook, Oregon Health and Science University medical director of the inpatient Bone Marrow Transplant unit and a member of OHSU’s blood supply task force, has seen the impact of the blood shortage firsthand.

“In recent weeks, the blood shortage has become so dire that we no longer can get the quantity or type of blood required for every patient who needs it, and we’ve had to make some difficult decisions,” she said. “Because blood is so scarce, we’re also having to delay some major surgeries.”

The Red Cross isn’t the only organization impacted. Independent blood centers, such as Bloodworks Northwest, the blood supplier for PeaceHealth Southwest Medical Center and Legacy Salmon Creek, are also experiencing dire shortages.

“This is the most prolonged, most severe blood shortage in recent years, with little indication of significant improvement,” said Bloodworks Northwest Executive Vice President of Blood Services Vicki Finson. “We could be hanging by a thread for months to come if our community doesn’t take action.”

People interested in donating to Bloodworks Northwest can visit BloodworksNW.org or call 1-800-398-7888.