HARTFORD, Conn. (WTNH) — Hospitals already strained by COVID are also facing blood shortages.
Whether it is for a patient having a baby, a transplant, a trauma or another surgery, the blood in their banks all comes from the Connecticut and Rhode Island Blood Center. Inside the center’s hub, shelves are empty.
On Tuesday, the Red Cross declared its first-ever national blood crisis in the United States.
Dr. Bradford Sherburne, medical director for laboratories at Hartford Hospital, is preparing for the day that he may need to force a surgeon to postpone an elective surgery because he does not have enough blood.
“I am anticipating it will become worse as the winter goes on,” Sherburne said. “It is very daunting and the day does not go by that I have to reassess everything.”
Sherburne helps maintain the blood bank for the Hartford HealthCare system along with that for Connecticut Children’s. He said their supply is at 50% of what he would consider a comfortable level of blood.
Kara LeBlanc, marketing and communications manager of the Connecticut Blood Center and Rhode Island Blood Center, said most of the time they are down to a one day supply. Typically, they should have a three to five day supply.
“There is no buffer anywhere across the country to make sure they have what they need,” LeBlanc said. “What would happen if we had a mass casualty? Nobody can predict those kinds of things and that is what we need to be prepared for.”
A number of factors have exacerbated the shortage, including the spike in COVID cases and quarantines, the weather and the holidays, with less people donating blood as a result. There are also fewer blood drives during the pandemic.
LeBlanc and Sherburne urge people to donate blood if they can. You can donate blood if you have had COVID as long as you are symptom-free.
“That would be the most humanitarian thing you can do,” Sherburne said.