Leading healthcare groups take up Red Cross' pleas for more blood donations amid national shortage

Three leading healthcare industry groups have joined the American Red Cross’ pleas for more blood donations amid what they’re calling the worst national blood shortage in over a decade.

In mid-January, the Red Cross announced it had seen a 10% decline in blood donations since the beginning of the pandemic and, in more recent days, blood drive cancellations and staffing limitations.

The organization, which supplies roughly 40% of the nation’s blood, said it’s looking for all types of blood as well as platelet donations to prevent medical treatment delays.

“While some types of medical care can wait, others can’t,” Pampee Young, M.D., chief medical officer of the Red Cross, said earlier this month. “Hospitals are still seeing accident victims, cancer patients, those with blood disorders like sickle cell disease and individuals who are seriously ill who all need blood transfusions to live even as omicron cases surge across the country. We’re doing everything we can to increase blood donations to ensure every patient can receive medical treatments without delay, but we cannot do it without more donors."

In a Thursday joint statement, the American Medical Association, American Hospital Association and American Nurses Association took up the Red Cross’ call for help.

The groups reiterated the pandemic’s disruption of blood drives and individuals’ ability to donate but also stressed that the need for blood and blood products has ramped up as providers play catch-up with delayed care.

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“Over the past year, as we have caught up on delayed surgeries, treated many trauma patients, and cared for others who need transfusions, the need for blood has increased while staffing shortages and high rates of COVID-19 in communities have diminished donations,” the associations wrote in the joint statement.

“The severity and duration of this shortage could significantly jeopardize the ability of health care providers to meet the many urgent needs of our patients and communities,” they wrote.

Potential donors who are unable to find an open appointment slot immediately should “not be discouraged … as this does not mean their donation is not needed,” the groups said.

“There will always be a need for blood in healthcare, and meeting that need will require consistent donations over time to ensure that our blood supply is restored to an acceptable level moving forward,” they said. “By donating regularly over time, we are confident we will be able to meet the needs of you, your friends and family members, and others in your community when disease or injury threatens life.”

The Red Cross and other groups such as America’s Blood Centers and the Association for the Advancement of Blood and Biotherapies have raised warning flags for months.

In a joint December statement, these three organizations said national blood supply shortages were “particularly concerning amid the holiday season and winter months—a time in which blood donations typically decrease due to travel, inclement weather and seasonal illnesses.”