Hospitals to resume elective surgeries, triggering surge in blood needs

With new COVID-19 cases in the Northwest projected to decline in the weeks ahead, Washington and Oregon hospitals are preparing to re-start surgeries, organ transplants and cancer treatments that were suspended in March after the magnitude of the pandemic threat became apparent.

That means that patient needs and requests for blood are rising quickly, and could reach pre-COVID levels as early as next week before the blood supply is ready.

“When the coronavirus hit, donors in the community stepped up immediately,” said Curt Bailey, President and CEO of Bloodworks Northwest. “As we start the challenging road to recovery, patients need them even more.”

Hospitals and health care providers in the region are preparing to tackle a significant backlog of surgeries, medical treatments and procedures that require transfusions. “Mounting requests from hospitals are outpacing current collection levels. We cannot afford to re-start these and other treatments without being utterly certain the blood will be there and steadily available over the coming days and months, and only the community can close the gap,” Bailey said.

Essential measures to contain the coronavirus — stay-at-home orders, online learning at colleges and schools, workplace and business closures, social distancing to discourage public and faith-based gatherings – also took away usual settings for mobile blood drives that account for up to 60% of collections (the equivalent of 34,000 units since March 1). “The sacrifices necessary for a safe and healthy community have been felt and shared by everyone,” Bailey noted. “After conserving the blood supply in recent weeks, we must rebuild inventory to a higher, resilient level that propels the community toward a safe, sustainable recovery.”

Bloodworks is urging all donors to step up for community recovery. You can pre-book your next several donations now. All types are urgently needed, but Type O is especially in demand.

The blood components in greatest demand are perishable, just like milk. Platelets have a shelf-life of only five days; red cells can be stored for up to 42 days. That’s why donors are needed every day. The community will have a safe and reliable blood supply when donating blood becomes a kindhearted habit—when donors commit to donating two or three times per year or more.

Whole blood donors can give blood once every 56 days, up to six times a year. Those aged 16 and 17 who meet donation weight and eligibility requirements may donate with a signed Bloodworks permission form.

Appointments are required to donate blood, and no guests or people under the age of 16 are permitted onsite to support safe social distancing, minimize wait time, and ensure the best donation experience possible. Same-day appointments are often available by calling ahead to 800-398-7888. Special appointments have been reserved for donors who are blood type O negative in this crucial time, so call 800-398-7888 or email schedule@bloodworksnw.org if this is your blood type.

Donating blood is safe, and there is no risk of contracting coronavirus from the donation process. (Source: AABB) Bloodworks policies comply with FDA, CDC, local health departments and other recommendations related to COVID-19. Bloodworks follows CDC guidance on wearing masks by wearing cloth face masks donated by volunteers or a face shield.

Bllodworks encourages donors to wear masks to their donation appointments and whenever they are in public. Bloodworks routinely sanitizes donation areas, chairs, surfaces and common objects such as door knobs and light switches, and use hand sanitizer. Staff, donors, and volunteers are advised to stay home if they feel unwell.

Bloodworks has posted information addressing questions and concerns for blood donors at bloodworksnw.org/coronavirus. Blood donation takes about an hour from registration to post-donation refreshment. Information about who can donate and where, is available at www.bloodworksnw.org.

The closest Bloodworks location is Lynnwood Center, 19723 Highway 99, Suite F, Lynnwood.

 

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