‘We could literally run out of blood’: RI facing critical blood shortage

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WLNE) – The Rhode Island Blood Center said this week the state is facing a ‘blood emergency’ as blood donations are at an all-time low due to the pandemic.

The blood center that has six locations across the state is seeing 200 fewer donations per week.

“We have about a three day supply of all blood types on hand and it’s less than that for our O positive and O negative blood types,” said Nicole Pineault, director of donor resources and the marrow donor program. “Our goal is to try and collect about 1500 red blood cell units a week, and we’ve been hovering in 1250 to 1300.”

Pineault said there are many contributing factors, but the pandemic took a big toll. The blood center is also seeing a 50% decrease in engagement from their youth donors aged 17-24, an age group they rely on.

“The state is starting to open up so we’re competing for people’s time again, we’re starting to see a decrease in our appointment fill rates, and then our no-show rates are going up.”

The blood center is also putting on fewer blood drives, which they typically hold at schools and workplaces, and due to people being remote, fewer people are showing up.

“In addition to it being a Rhode Island shortage, it’s actually a national shortage. We’re seeing this across the country,” said Dr. Stephanie Lueckel, a trauma surgeon at Rhode Island Hospital.

The hospital currently has half its regular blood supply.

“For me, as a trauma surgeon, it worries me because there are days where trauma has a patient that can take 20, 40, 50 units of blood, which is a huge amount of blood, and we can quickly deplete our stores. When I hear from the blood center that we have less than three days worth of O positive or O negative blood, basically blood we can give to anybody, it’s unnerving.”

She said this is the worst blood shortage she’s ever seen in her career.

“It’s incredibly unnerving knowing that we could literally run out of blood. Somebody comes in and they’re injured, most likely they are bleeding and we give blood and we don’t give it a second thought. We don’t pause. We don’t pause to consider, do we have enough of it? And now we are. I mean, the blood bank is sort of squashing 30% of requests for blood because they have to.”

Dr. Lueckel donated blood herself last week, and encourages others to follow suit.

“It’s easy, maybe a half hour, at the most an hour of your day, (and) you get cookies! I mean, I really think if we got in the whole state of Rhode Island just 200 people more a day we would be back on par.”

To learn how to donate blood, click here or call 401-453-8383.

WLNE-TV 2021

Categories: News, Regional News, Rhode Island