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Blood shortage prompts memo to doctors: Consider postponing elective surgeries

Updated: Jun. 11, 2021 at 3:37 PM CDT
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GREEN BAY, Wis. (WBAY) - Doctors are making a plea they never had to make: They’re begging anyone able to give blood to go do it.

It comes amid a nationwide shortage of blood.

While that usually happens a few times a year, they same this time is different. It’s forcing Bellin Hospital in Green Bay to consider cancelling surgeries if donations don’t come in.

Doctors say the pandemic, mass shootings and people delaying health care have all contributed to the shortage.

“I have never had a memo in 31 years of doing this that said the supply is so low, your hospital needs to look at what you could do if we don’t get the supply up quickly,” says Dr. Paul Casey. He’s Bellin’s emergency department medical director and chair of the transfusion committee.

He says the American Red Cross sent that memo to the hospital Wednesday.

Dr. Casey calls it “alarming.”

“They actually asked us to start looking at what we could do if we we were not able to get blood from the blood bank in terms of what elective surgeries would we have to postpone that were high-risk surgeries -- that would be those that might require a transfusion,” explains Dr. Casey.

He stresses Bellin is not at the point of postponing or canceling surgeries right now and the supply is okay, but not knowing how long that will last has the hospital making backup plans.

“Two days ago, the whole team came together to start brainstorming on what to do,” he says.

Dr. Casey points to a nationwide blood shortage brought on by several factors:

First, there’s more violence and more mass shootings across the country creating more blood needs.

He also says people are traveling and getting back to ‘normal’ activities, instead of donating.

There’s also an increased surgery demand.

“We’re overrun with elective surgeries right now,” says the doctor. “People postponed surgery during the pandemic. The people who had chronic conditions, their conditions progressed to the point that if they need surgery, they’re now more advanced, and the operation may be more complex, so the need for blood is higher.”

Dr. Casey joins others in the health care field making a plea to the public.

“It could be the life of a family member or yourself that’s at stake here,” says Dr. Casey. “We need to try to get as much blood donated as possible as quickly as possible.”

The Red Cross plans to release more details about a push to get people to donate next week.

In the meantime, there are blood drives happening across the area or you can schedule appointments.

You can do all of that at the American Red Cross website. You can type in your ZIP Code to find times and places to donate close to you.

Versiti Blood Center of Wisconsin is expanding its capacity and extending its hours at centers around the state to help with donation collection. Visit https://donate.wisconsin.versiti.org/ for locations and times.

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