Urgent Call for Blood Donors to Combat Summer Blood Supply Shortages
As hospitals resume patient care at full capacity, need for blood has rebounded
but donations have not.
The Rhode Island Blood Center (RIBC) is issuing an urgent call for blood and platelet donors to book appointments at their six donor centers and mobile blood drives. The need for blood has rebounded to pre-COVID-19 levels; however, donor participation has not.
Mobile blood drives hosted by schools, organizations, and businesses make up about 50% of the region’s incoming blood supply, but they were canceled beginning in March due to the pandemic. At that time, RIBC was able to sustain the community blood supply through donations at its six donor centers, but only because blood utilization sharply declined as hospitals stopped elective surgeries and stay-at-home orders were in place. RIBC began safely holding mobile blood drives again in June with increased safety measures. However, most large organizations that typically host blood drives during the summer have not reopened and still have most employees working from home. For example, last July RIBC ran 117 blood drives collecting 3,018 donations. This July, the center is only able to run 55 blood drives at organizations and in the community collecting an estimated 1,600 donations.
Compounding the typical summer decline in blood donations is the challenge of donors not showing up for their appointments 20 percent of the time. “Because we are scheduling appointments to allow for social distancing, we cannot make up for those precious missed donations with walk-in donors,” says Kara LeBlanc, Communications Manager. The blood center urges donors who schedule to keep that commitment to save lives as long as they are feeling well and healthy on the day of donation.
To maintain a safe blood supply, a seven-day inventory of all blood types must be on hand at all times. In recent weeks, due to fewer donors booking appointments, reserves are below that minimum with only a 2-3 day supply of critical blood types.
“The blood supply is a critical part of our healthcare system. It is imperative for individuals to come in and donate blood so that it’s available to everyone in need,” said Beau Tompkins, Senior Executive Director of RIBC. “At this unprecedented time, we call on the community to book every available appointment at our six centers and mobile blood drives to try and make up for the pandemic-related closures.” RIBC extended hours and days of operation at its six donor centers to increase the availability of appointments for donors, with plenty of capacity to handle existing donors coming to the centers and much-needed new donors who want to join the cause of saving lives in their community and throughout New England.
To protect donors and staff, people must avoid donating if they are experiencing a fever or other symptoms of COVID-19 (cough, shortness of breath, or difficulty breathing), have had close contact with someone diagnosed with or suspected of having COVID-19 in the last 14 days, or been diagnosed with or suspected of having COVID-19 until 14 days after their illness has resolved. RIBC does NOT test for COVID-19.
Donating blood is safe, and it only takes one hour. The centers and mobile blood drives have many safety measures in place to keep both donors and staff safe, including requiring face coverings, disinfecting high touch areas frequently, and safe spacing protocols.
Donors can schedule appointments online at ribc.org or by calling 401-453-8383.