The U.S. is facing a ‘blood crisis’ during the COVID-19 pandemic, and some hospitals in Massachusetts are setting plans in place to start rationing if the need comes.
Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH) and Tufts Medical Center, both in Boston, are developing plans in case they run short on blood, reports WGBH.
Last month, the American Red Cross declared that the U.S. was facing a ‘blood crisis’ due to plummeting donation numbers during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Because blood can not be stored for long periods of time, blood banks and hospitals require frequent donations to keep supplies up. Many health care providers have already been forced into a bind during the pandemic.
A ‘blood crisis’ has forced hospitals to ration blood amid shortages. The Red Cross reports that donations are down 10% since the COVID-19 pandemic began in March 2020 (file photo)
‘The blood shortage is real, it’s regional and national, and it is compromising patient care,’ Dr Robert Makar, director of the Blood Transfusion Service at MGH, told the radio station.
The Red Cross said in January that there has been a ten percent drop in blood donations since Covid first began in March 2020.
A lot of the loss has been accounted for by schools, where the number of donation drives held has dropped 62 percent.
Donation centers and blood banks have also faced staffing shortages, just like many other industries have during Covid.
‘At a time when many businesses and organizations across the country are experiencing pandemic challenges, the Red Cross is no different,’ the organization wrote in a statement.
‘We are all learning how to live in this new environment, how we spend our time, where we work, how we give back, how we make a difference in the lives of others – donating blood must continue to be part of it.’
A lack of blood can be worrisome for people who require emergency surgery or suffer a severe trauma injury – both of which can lead to someone losing a dangerous amount of blood very suddenly.
Some people also need regular blood transfusions to manage chronic conditions, and shortages can disrupt treatment and cause preventable death.
Massachusetts General Hospital (pictured) has created a Blood Allocation Team which has been tasked with managing limited blood supplies and potentially rationing in times of crisis
‘In this most recent wave, the hospital is very busy,’ Makar said.
‘It’s providing care to lots of non-Covid patients, many of them needing lifesaving surgery. And so the pace of blood use has been consistently high.’
While MGH has enough blood to survive for now, hospital officials have created the ‘Blood Allocation Team’ which is dedicated to managing the hospital’s blood supply and making sure it is efficiently use in times of shortage.
‘The responsible thing to do is to make sure that we have plans in place so that if the blood collection services were to be unable to meet our demands for the care that we deliver,’ Dr Paul Biddinger, Mass General Brigham’s chief preparedness and continuity officer, said.
Tufts Medical Center in downtown Boston is fully reliant on the Red Cross to provide it with blood. As the organization faces crisis, so does the hospital.
Tufts, which receives its blood supply directly from the Red Cross, has already began to ration its blood supply to handle shortages (file photo)
In response to the crisis, the hospital has already began to ration blood, forcing physicians to make tough in-the-moment decisions on patient care.
‘There’s cases where it’s unequivocal the patient absolutely needs the blood,’ Dr Vishesh Chhibber explained to WGBH.
‘[Then]there are times where within a certain zone, depending on the patient’s symptoms and the patient’s blood count, that there may be some discretion where some people say, ‘OK, I think this patient would benefit from a unit of blood currently,’ whereas someone else may say, ‘Hey, you know, I think you can wait. Let’s see how he does.”
Tufts has also began to work with other hospitals in the region to make sure they do not allow any of the blood supply to spoil, and to share resources with one another when needed.