Pandemic-delayed surgeries share blame for blood shortage


BOSTON (NewsNation Now) — Some hospitals across the country are delaying or rescheduling surgeries because of a shortage of blood donations during the pandemic.

“We haven’t seen anything like this in about 30 or 40 years at least,” Dr. Vishesh Chhibber, director of transfusion medicine at UMass Memorial Health, told the Boston Globe.

Periodic, localized blood shortages are not uncommon, but this shortage is “unprecedented in its scope,” said Dr. Claudia Cohn, chief medical officer for the American Association of Blood Banks.

Officials point toward a number of factors including the typical summer drop in blood donations at a time when surgeries are increasing because of procedures that were postponed during the pandemic.

Nationwide, the Red Cross normally has a five-day supply of all types of blood, said Kelly Isenor, spokesperson for the Red Cross of Massachusetts,

Right now, the supply of the sorely needed type O blood would last only a half-day. “It’s going out faster than it’s coming in,” Isenor said.

There are empty shelves in Shreveport, Louisiana and other places across the country.

Experts also say there’s been a spike in traumatic car crashes with more people on the road. It’s forcing doctors to make difficult decisions.

“If we have only enough on the shelf for some patients, we will give smaller amounts to other patients who might not need as much,” Cohn said. “We’ll do everything possible to keep our patients healthy. But if we have a limited supply, and we have a lot of demand, we have to stretch the blood supply to make it last.”

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