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Health officials call for community help amid blood supply shortage

Health officials call for community help amid blood supply shortage

A blood shortage has health officials asking donors in the D.C. area to step up.

“Not only are we challenged from a collection and donor perspective, but we do see increases in blood use this time of year as well,” said Sean McCleary, vice president of professional services with Inova Health System.

McCleary says the not-for-profit health organization has less than a day’s worth of O-negative supply, the universal donor type, which is used in a lot of trauma incidents, like gunshot wounds and injuries from car crashes.

“We really are in a critical status when it comes to blood supply for our patients,” McCleary told WTOP. “We use it in a lot of our trauma care here in the Inova Health System.”

He said traumatic occurrences are actually up so far in the month of January, right as donations are dwindling. He also adds January is already a tough month for collections to begin with.

“Sixty-five percent of the population is eligible to donate blood, and we see only around 4% to 6% become regular donors,” McCleary explained.

McCleary said that, typically, when Inova experiences a blood supply shortage, it is able to buy blood from other sources if it can’t collect it on its own. But he said that even Inova’s ability to buy externally is difficult right now because of a national shortage.

He said Inova has to resort to using conservation measures in transfusions to prolong its supply.

“Sometimes, we have to make tough decisions in these situations,” he said. “People who come in needing transfusions can go through up to 50 different blood products.”

He said that although their need for O negative is at it’s highest right now, Inova still has a need for all other blood types.

“It’s such a good way to give back to the community,” McCleary said.

If you are unable to visit a blood donation center, Inova has several blood drives in the coming weeks. This Sunday, Jan. 7, a blood drive will be held at the Inova Center for Personalized Health in Fairfax, Virginia.

You can see all other blood drives for this month on its website.

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