COVID-19 caused overwhelming challenges when it came to providing medical care to patients. As the pandemic comes to a close and restrictions are lifted, many patients have returned to seeking medical care. However, hospitals are now facing another severe crisis — a national blood shortage.
Blood donations have always been in high demand, and we even saw a supply shortage back in 2006. However, doctors say it has reached a critical turning point this time. The national blood supply shortage has forced them to re-triage patients to ensure adequate care for those in urgent need.
Average Blood Supplies
There are three levels of blood supply — green, yellow, and red. It dropped to the red level in June, which means they only have a day or less of blood supply and are in critical need of donations. These dangerously low levels do not allow hospitals to meet typical operating demands.
On average, an American needs blood every two seconds, and 40% of the nation’s blood supply is needed daily. Additionally, patients with sickle cell disease and cancer require frequent blood transfusions throughout their lives, and a victim of a car accident can require up to 100 units of blood.
The Effects on Patient Care
The national blood shortage is forcing doctors to prioritize patients with the most critical needs. COVID-19 and a rise in violent crime posed new challenges to the already low blood supply. Since 2019, blood demand has risen 10% in hospitals with trauma centers and more than five times in other healthcare facilities that provide blood transfusions.
Hospitals postponed many non-life-threatening surgeries during the pandemic. With COVID restrictions lifting, many hospitals are rescheduling those surgeries. Additionally, gunshot wounds have become more prevalent since before COVID-19. These incidences, plus other traumas that require blood transfusions, are persistently on the rise. As a result, the number of patients that need blood is outweighing the low supply. Not to mention, blood donations were significantly lower during the lockdown.
The low blood supply is affecting patient care in a big way. Without an adequate blood supply, patients are receiving suboptimal care. Doctors are now evaluating each patient based on specific criteria to determine who has the most critical needs.
Many hospitals are now looking to other hospitals and trauma centers to see if they can support their blood supply inventory in urgent scenarios. Even so, they might cancel more elective surgeries. Additionally, many patients undergoing chemotherapy where blood transfusions are necessary might have to reschedule lifesaving treatments.
Healthcare professionals are highly concerned about the current blood shortage as blood is a lifesaving treatment method for millions of patients worldwide. Many haven’t experienced anything like this before. Doctors are taking it day-by-day, but this summer will pose a challenge, and the crisis will only worsen as blood supply levels remain extremely low.
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