Community Asked to Boost Blood Supply

Fri, 09/02/2016 - 13:05

The Rhode Island Blood Center (RIBC) is asking the community to make an extra effort to give blood and platelets.

A decline in donations began in April and has continued throughout the summer. After the Orlando shooting, a tragic and sobering reminder to the country that blood needs to be on hand at all times, RIBC saw an increase in donations during that week. Scott Asadorian, vice president and chief operating officer of RIBC, says:

"It has been particularly challening recently, and we don't think there's one single reason, rather rather multiple factors contributing," some of which include:

  • Deferrals due to travel to Zika affected areas, which are common vacation spots. From February to the beginning of July, RIBC has had to defer 363 donors so far. We encourage donors to give blood before traveling to affected areas. If a donor has been deferred for travel, they are encouraged to reschedule the donation as soon as the deferral period is over.
  • As of May 23, 2016, FDA implemented a new rule increasing the hemoglobin criteria for male blood donors from 12.5 g/dL (or 38 percent hematocrit) to 13.0 g/dL (39 percent hematocrit) in order to be able to donate blood. The rule is to ensure male donors do not become iron deficient and has resulted in an increase number of temporary deferrals. More about hemoglobin/hematocrit levels.
  • Swings in weather, both good weather and bad, can impact donor turnout. Unfortunately, patients' need for blood remains constant no matter what the weather.
  • Aging population of Rhode Islanders. Though there is no upper age limit to donating blood, it's possible that as the population faces more serious health issues, they are no longer able to donate blood.
  • Decline in answered calls. For years, the blood center has relied on telephone calls as a primary method of recruiting people to donate blood. Not surprisingly, more and more Americans do not pick up the phone. As a result, the blood center is talking to fewer people each year. Asadorian explains, "While calling may not be the community's favorite method, it still accounts for many of the donations that we receive." Historically, the most effective way to get someone to commit to giving blood again is to personally ask them. Calling is one way RIBC accomplishes that. Calls to donors to schedule a donation is common practice of blood centers across the country but is becoming less effective everywhere. Asadorian adds, "In spite of the best of intentions to donate, if donors are not reminded to give or asked to give, most do not make it a priority. The simplest way to receive fewer reminders is to schedule that life-saving donation." Show rates can be challenging too, with 25 percent of donors not showing up for the appointments they make. The blood center offers easy online scheduling via their website and donors can now text 401-453-8383 for an appointment.

Approximately 200 units a day need to be collected in Rhode Island to meet the needs of patients and hospitals the blood center serves. In Rhode Island, only about 5 percent of the population donates blood when over 370,000 people are actually eligible to donate. The average RIBC donor gives one to two times a year even though it's possible to donate whole blood six times a year and platelets up to 24 times a year. Asadorian says, "If more people would give three to four times a year, that would make a significant difference in keeping collections steady."

The blood center encourages donors to make an appointment whenever possible as it helps ensure the blood supply is steady and avoids the potential for increased wait time for walk-ins. You can find a date, time and location that works best for you. You can also text or call 401-453-8383 anytime.