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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Monday, August 23, 2021

Contact: Kara LeBlanc, kleblanc@ribc.org, 401.787.8686

RHODE ISLAND BLOOD SUPPLY FALLS TO DANGEROUSLY LOW LEVELS

Massive Transfusion Protocols (MTP’s) are straining an already precarious blood supply, which no longer has a buffer to ensure safe levels for the community.

PROVIDENCE — The Rhode Island Blood Center (RIBC) is sounding the alarm for blood donors, as the regional supply reaches concerning levels. In recent weeks, the blood supply for the hospitals that RIBC serves has dropped to a 1-2 day supply of Type O blood, which signals more severe shortages as we head into Labor Day.

At times, Rhode Island Hospital (RIH), the only Level I Trauma Hospital in Rhode Island, has been down to less than half of what is needed each day. Dr. Stephanie Lueckel, a trauma surgeon at RIH, says, “One massive transfusion protocol (MTP) for one patient can wipe out our entire supply of Type O blood.” MTP’s are situations when patients need rapid administration of large amounts of blood in a short period of time, most often used in trauma situations.

Dr. Lueckel, a Type O blood donor herself, added “When we activate an MTP, coolers of blood are sent from our hospital blood bank until we tell them to stop. This happens about once a week.” But blood donations are not keeping pace with the level of need, even with plenty of opportunities to donate. As of August 20, the hospital has already seen 70 operative emergencies this month. “Massive blood transfusions give us time to find the source and get it under control while keeping up with blood loss. The majority of the time, we are successful. My fellow physicians and I at Lifespan are urging the community to give what we need to save lives.”

Donations of all blood types are needed, and Type O donors are most critical. Type O+ is the most common blood type and can be used to help patients with any Rh-positive blood type; Type O- can be used to help anyone with any blood type. RIBC encourages donors with O+, O-, A- and B- to inquire about giving a double red cell donation to help increase supply faster. Female donors must be 5’5” and 150lbs, and male donors must be 5’1” and 130lbs to qualify for a double red donation.

“This is a perfect storm causing alarming levels of blood products we supply,” says Beau Tompkins, Senior Executive Director of RIBC and Type O blood donor. “We have no buffers for storms, disasters, mass-casualty incidents, or even individual patients who may need larger volumes of blood needed for MTP’s. Because the situation is similar across the country, the only cavalry coming to help right now are local donors.”

RIBC anticipated that the supply would rebound when vaccinated Rhode Islanders resumed normal activities and expected school and office blood drives to fully return this fall, but the Delta variant has interrupted that recovery. Recent show no-show rates for donors who schedule appointments have increased, making it difficult to meet daily collection goals. RIBC COVID-19 safety precautions remain in place to protect donors and staff.

Blood is needed to help women and newborns during complications with childbirth, patients battling cancer, victims of trauma or severe burns, people with heart and kidney diseases and blood disorders like sickle cell anemia, and individuals who need surgery and organ transplants.

Donors can schedule appointments by calling 401.453.8383 or visiting ribc.org.

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RHODE ISLAND BLOOD CENTER About Rhode Island Blood Center Rhode Island Blood Center (RIBC) was founded in 1979 as a nonprofit community blood center. For over 35 years, RIBC has been the primary supplier of blood and blood products to patients being cared for in hospitals throughout Rhode Island and in neighboring states. Our mission is to help save lives by ensuring a safe, plentiful, and cost-effective blood supply. RIBC is also part of the National Marrow Donor Program and collects stem cells for transplant at its Providence location. RIBC provides therapeutic treatments for patients in local hospitals. Our state-of-the-art laboratory performs donor testing for over 400,000 donations per year. RIBC is also involved in a variety of local and national research programs to improve all aspects of the blood supply. RIBC is a Division of New York Blood Center, Inc. (a family of operating Divisions known as New York Blood Center Enterprises). For more information, visit ribc.org. Connect with us on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and LinkedIn.