Blood supplier for NY hospitals is running critically low. Officials hope you’ll donate.

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webnexttech | Blood supplier for NY hospitals is running critically low. Officials hope you'll donate.
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The New York Blood Center says its supply of O-negative blood — the kind that can be used to treat any patient — is critically low. The center, which distributes blood to hospitals, has declared its second “blood emergency” of 2024 and says donors are desperately needed. “Across all blood types, we like to have a seven-day supply on the shelf at all times,” said Chelsey Smith, a spokesperson for the New York Blood Center. “When our inventory drops below a seven-day supply, that’s cause for concern” and typically triggers a blood emergency. O-negative is the most commonly used blood type in emergency rooms because it’s compatible with all other blood types, Smith said. She added that, as of Friday, the center was down to a two-day supply of both O-negative and B-negative blood and had a “critical shortage of platelets.” The Blood Center says it needs to collect about 2,000 individual donations of blood a day to supply area hospitals. But dipping below the ideal inventory of a seven-day supply doesn’t necessarily mean patients in need of transfusions won’t get them. For one thing, blood emergency declarations — which may be made a few times in any given year — are usually effective in getting more people to donate quickly, Smith said. At the same time, hospitals are always working to manage and conserve their blood supply, even when there’s not an emergency, according to Robert DeSimone, director of transfusion medicine at NewYork-Presbyterian/Weill Cornell Medical Center. Transfusions are only done when they’re “absolutely necessary,” and doctors and nurses are trained not to waste blood, said DeSimone. “When our blood supplier, the New York Blood Center, makes a blood emergency announcement, we generally will send hospital-wide notifications reminding our physicians and our nurses of these important principles,” he said. If a hospital has an urgent need for blood because of a trauma case, it can also contact the center to request an additional delivery, he added. But even with some level of conservation, the NewYork-Presbyterian hospital system logs more than 50,000 blood transfusions each year, said spokesperson Rachel Packer. The blood is used for cancer patients, accident and burn victims, trauma victims, parents who lose too much blood during labor and newborn babies, among others, DeSimone explained. And since blood is perishable — a red blood cell only lasts 42 days on the shelf — the need for donations never ends. The summer drop-off in blood donations is particularly problematic because summer is known in the health care community as “trauma season” for all the accidents that occur during it, but it’s not unusual, Smith said. Seasonal blood shortages in the winter and summer months are common because that’s when people go on vacation, according to the New York Blood Center. Still, Smith said she’s concerned that blood emergencies could become more frequent following the COVID-19 pandemic. She said many offices and schools that previously held blood drives paused them during the pandemic and not all of them have started back up. There were five blood emergencies in 2022 and two in 2023. There could end up being more than two this year since the year is only halfway over, said Alexa Heller, a spokesperson for the New York Blood Center.

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