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Chronic blood shortages threaten healthcare systems as second COVID-19 wave hits.

Providence, RI — Area hospitals join forces with the Rhode Island Blood Center (RIBC) to increase blood donations. Temporary blood shortages are not uncommon during the holidays and as cold/flu season hit; however, the pandemic has created chronic blood shortages across the country that show no sign of improving as we head into the winter months.

The healthcare systems Rhode Island Blood Center supports require over 280 blood products each day to treat patients ranging from trauma victims to newborn babies and their mothers to cancer patients. Prior to the pandemic, donors could stop by community blood drives at convenient locations, but most of the schools, colleges, offices and other large community organizations are not operating in the same way they used to because of COVID-19.

According to America’s Blood Centers, mobile blood drive donations nationally are down by 30 percent compared to the same time last year. Corporate blood drives down by 45 percent, all leading to an expected national loss of 250,000+ blood products needed for patients in the coming months. Locally mobile blood drive operations are down by 31 percent compared to last year. This is well below what is needed by hospitals and patients in our service area, considering blood donations prior to the pandemic were just barely consistently meeting patient demand.

“The entire foundation of the way people donate blood has changed. The convenience factor of walking down the hallway while at work, getting out of class or donating after religious services has decreased, but the patient need for blood has not. Instead, we have to rely on the community taking the extra step of proactively seeking out our mobile blood drives that are safely operating or to come into one of our six donor centers. So far, that isn’t happening at the level we need to prevent cuts to hospital orders,” said Beau Tompkins, Senior Executive Director for Rhode Island Blood Center. “In normal times, announcing a blood emergency would create a short-term bump in blood donations. We’ve been sounding the alarm in the community for months now, and brief increases will not solve the kind of prolonged urgent need the pandemic is causing.”

Physicians from across the state weigh in on the urgency for a steady and reliable blood supply to prevent disruptions in patient care based on blood product availability.

Care New England

Women & Infants Hospital
“A pandemic changes many things, but it does not stop anyone from experiencing serious medical issues. Women and Infants’ requires special blood products that RIBC provides to treat our smallest patients in the NICU who need specialized care. It’s critical to have precisely what we need on hand for patients with complications during and after childbirth, as well as women battling cancer or needing surgery. We’re imploring eligible donors to prioritize blood donation and getting back to giving regularly. Reach out to the Rhode Island Blood Center to see if you can give. Book an appointment right on their website www.ribc.org,” said Robert M. Insoft, MD, FAAP, SVP, Quality & Medical Affairs, Chief Medical Officer, Pediatrician-in-Chief, Chief of Neonatology (Interim), Women & Infants Hospital

Kent Hospital
“Every day we see patients in the Emergency Department who are in need of critical blood products, which are supplied by volunteer blood donors in the community. I’m in the business of saving lives, in fact, I’ve dedicated my life to it, so I’m encouraging eligible donors of all ages to adapt to this new normal by making it a priority to donate blood with the Rhode Island Blood Center. They have made it safe and easy to donate at a blood drive or donor center,” said Laura Forman, MD, Chief of Emergency Medicine, Kent Hospital

“The time is more urgent than ever to give blood to help our fellow Rhode Islanders who are fighting for their lives. The COVID-19 pandemic has changed the way blood centers across the country operate to meet the needs of the patients we serve, and we must do our part to help solve this problem before it impacts patients needing blood products,” said Robert J. Haffey, President and COO, Kent Hospital.


Rhode Island Hospital
“Our Lifespan emergency departments, especially Rhode Island Hospital as the only Level 1 Trauma Center for Southern New England, need to have donated blood at the ready for incoming patients 24/7. I’ve seen firsthand that one trauma patient can require 20 or more transfusions to survive,” said Jay Schuur, MD, Lifespan Chief of Emergency Medicine. “One mass casualty could wipe out the entire supply on hand. Our patients undergoing surgeries and battling cancer need it too. As an emergency physician and a longtime regular blood donor, I know exactly how vital it is that we have a steady supply over the coming months. Please rise to this challenge, New Englanders. We’re here for you. Be there for us and each other.”

“The Level One Trauma Center at Rhode Island Hospital saves countless lives each year, after serious falls, major car accidents, industrial injuries and more. The blood supplied to us by the Rhode Island Blood Center and generous blood donors helps make that possible,” said John B. Murphy, MD, President of Rhode Island Hospital. “Other patients, including those undergoing cancer treatment or complex surgery also rely on that same supply. With the approaching winter season, we know that every year demand is high and shortages are common – COVID-19 has complicated that further. We’re partnering with RIBC and other hospitals to urge all eligible donors to consider making this selfless gift to ensure that we shore up our supply of life-saving blood.”

Hasbro Children’s Hospital
“We are committed to providing the best care for the kids of Rhode Island and beyond. During this unprecedented time, adequate blood supplies are low.  These supplies are essential for allowing us to provide the most advanced pediatric medical care to our young patients,” said Phyllis A. Dennery, MD, FAAP, pediatrician-in-chief and medical director, Hasbro Children’s Hospital.  Hasbro Children’s Hospital has the only Pediatric Intensive Care Unit that is staffed around the clock. If we all do our part by donating blood, we will make a real difference to ensure that we are always ready for any emergency.” 

Prime Healthcare

Landmark Medical Center
“Blood donations are vitally important.  It is imperative that we have a steady and strong supply of blood so that patient care is not disrupted. When it is, it impacts the health and wellbeing of the community. As a community hospital, it is incumbent that we strategically and aggressively address all aspects of patient care, especially in the time of COVID – 19. An adequate supply of blood and continued partnership with the Rhode Island Blood Bank is essential to hospital operations. We urge everyone who can to step up and help out by giving blood,” said Dr. Glenn G. Fort, MD, MPH, Chief Medical Officer, Landmark Medical Center

Sturdy Memorial Hospital

“When we host semi-annual blood drives at our Hospital, our employees come out in full force to donate because they understand how these life-saving donations impact our patients. They’re on the front lines delivering blood in emergency situations or holding the hand of a cancer patient who requires it during their treatment. Our ability to care for our community relies heavily on having access to blood. We’ve prepared for the pandemic in the months ahead by securing proper PPE and safety protocols, now we need the community to help us maintain our blood supply,” said Brian Patel, MD, Chief of Emergency & Associate Chief Quality Officer, Sturdy Memorial Hospital

Yale New Haven Health

Westerly Hospital and Lawrence + Memorial Hospital

"The Covid-19 pandemic poses many challenges for everyone.  Blood donation and collection is not immune to these challenges.  Despite a decrease in blood donation, the demand for these invaluable blood products remains.  Blood products are continually needed to care for a variety of patients including trauma patients, cancer patients receiving chemotherapy, transplant patients, obstetrical patients, surgical patients and patients with hereditary anemias.  We need the help of the community now more than ever to meet these demands for blood products," said Dr. Nicole Muscato, Director of the Blood Bank at Lawrence + Memorial Hospital and Westerly Hospital

VA Providence Healthcare System

“Veterans have given so much, donating blood is a perfect way to give something back to Veterans in need this holiday season,” said Dr. AnnMarie Dunican, Deputy Chief of Medical Staff for the VA Providence Healthcare System. “The life-saving blood we use at the Providence VA Medical Center to provide care for our Veteran patients comes from Rhode Island Blood Center donors.”

What will help solve this problem is:

  1. Book appointments to donate blood and platelets in the coming weeks at any of the mobile blood drives RIBC is operating or at their six donor centers. Encourage friends and family to give as well. Book Appointment Now. Donations by appointment. Walk-ins will only be taken if safe social distancing allows at the time of arrival.
  2. New blood donors are needed to starting giving. Existing blood donors are asked to come back to donating and give a few more times a year than they normally do.
  3. Run your organization’s blood drives again, encouraging those who belong to your organization to prioritize giving blood at the drive. It is safe to donate. Blood centers are designated by FEMA as critical to patient care and emergency preparedness. RIBC has infection control measures in place at their centers and mobile drives to keep donors and staff safe. View safety measures in place at www.ribc.org/safety.