Critical blood shortage could impact life-saving hospital care; Doctors plea for blood donations

Posted at 6:24 PM, Jan 13, 2022
and last updated 2022-01-13 18:24:01-05

DEARBORN, Mich. (WXYZ) — "I'm very worried that somebody may die," said U-M blood bank director Dr. Robertson Davenport about the shortage of blood in Michigan and across the country.

Dr. Davenport, who has been the U-M blood bank director for 40 years, said it's the worst situation he's seen in his entire career.

"We are very concerned. Right now, we have about a one to two-day supply," he said. "And because the Red Cross is trying to distribute as much blood to the hospitals as possible, they're not holding blood back in reserve. So there isn't a buffer that we used to have in previous months."

Davenport said that while they are currently managing their supply carefully, he's very concerned that an emergency would impact other care.

"I'm very concerned about that next patient who might come in the door. It could be a car accident. It could be a patient who needs a liver transplant right away. It could be a woman who's pregnant and having a complication of pregnancy."

Dr. Craig Fletcher heads up the blood bank for all eight hospitals in Beaumont Health. He said they prefer to operate with a five to six-day supply of blood on hand, but they're down to about a one-day supply.

The reasons for the shortage in blood donations that is being felt at hospitals across the country include typical low turnout around the holidays but then there's COVID.

Large donation drives have been canceled due to the pandemic, and the American Red Cross has not been immune to staffing shortages.

"We're in very dire circumstances here," said Red Cross supervisor Ryan Connaughton. "We need as much blood as we can. The supply is dangerously low."

It takes about an hour for someone to donate blood to the Red Cross or Versiti, another expert in blood collection.

Versiti supplies Beaumont Hospitals with about 80-percent of their blood products.

And for anyone who is concerned about catching the virus while donating blood, Dr. Fletcher said safety continues to be a priority. "Whenever I go, everyone is masked, everyone is wearing gloves. It's a very safe process."

Click on the video to hear from those who have decided to donate blood and more from physicians about the critical need.