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NC Hospitals Facing A ‘Severe’ Shortage Of Blood

Robert DeLaRosa

North Carolina hospitals are facing a “severe” shortage of blood as part of a nationwide decrease in supply, according to the American Red Cross.

“Blood is being distributed to hospitals faster than it’s coming in,” Maya Franklin, a spokesperson with the Red Cross’ Greater Carolinas Region, said on Thursday. Her region serves 47 North Carolina counties and four South Carolina counties. The Red Cross provides about 40% of the U.S. supply of blood and blood components, according to its website.

Franklin said the shortage is because of low donor turnout over the past few months and more trauma patients in hospitals compared to 2019, the latest comparable data. In a news release, the Red Cross also cited a nationwide rise in the number of organ transplants and elective surgeries as reasons why the blood supply is depleted. Plus, the organization said, patients who deferred care during the COVID-19 pandemic turn up at hospitals seriously ill and in need of increased blood transfusions.

“It’s frightening for those patients who are relying on blood transfusions,” Franklin said. “There may come a time when doctors have to delay surgery because there isn’t enough blood on the shelf.”

Novant Health sources its blood from the Red Cross and has seen an impact on its internal inventory, Novant spokesperson Megan Rivers said in an email.

The president of Red Cross Biomedical Services, Chris Hrouda, said in a news release that teams across the country have distributed “about 75,000 more blood products than expected over the past three months to meet demand.”

The Red Cross is urging people to donate blood, especially Type O-negative which is also known as the “universal donor” because it can be given to any other blood type. Franklin said there is also an urgent need for blood platelets, or the parts of blood that help form clots to stop bleeding.

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Claire Donnelly is WFAE's health reporter. She previously worked at NPR member station KGOU in Oklahoma and also interned at WBEZ in Chicago and WAMU in Washington, D.C. She holds a master's degree in journalism from Northwestern University and attended college at the University of Virginia, where she majored in Comparative Literature and Spanish. Claire is originally from Richmond, Virginia. Reach her at cdonnelly@wfae.org or on Twitter @donnellyclairee.