Risky scenario for hospitals amid blood shortage

Healthcare workers working to keep up with the ongoing surge of the omicron variant at full hospitals are juggling another type of emergency: an unprecedented blood shortage.

“We have moved to crisis standards. There are places that cannot meet their normal requirements,” said UW Medicine's Dr. John Hess, medical director for Harborview Medical Center’s Transfusion Service.

Harborview currently has enough blood supply to treat patients in need of transfusions, but a mass casualty event such as multiple gunshot wound victims or severe collision could exhaust the supply without the certainty of reinforcements.

“Being down even a little bit begins to represent a potential threat to the system,” said Hess.

Hess explains that blood establishments, which lead blood donation efforts and distribute blood to hospitals across the state, are especially feeling the pinch of the shortage.

“Normally they would try to have three days’ supply. Today, that supply is less than one day. And so, they are allocating it out to the various small hospitals because everybody's down a little bit,” said Hess.

Access downloadable video assets explaining blood shortage impacts.

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