Local hospitals facing critically low blood shortage

Blood shortage

LAKE CHARLES, La. (KPLC) - This Winter, Southwest Louisiana hospitals are dealing with a critically low supply of blood. Between two hurricanes and the COVID-19 pandemic, people aren’t giving as much blood.

“We’ve had other instances of shortages but it has not been like this,” said Christus Ochsner Laboratory Services Director Daniel Fruge. “This is the shortest that we’ve been with blood on the shelf that I’ve ever seen in 42 years of working.”

The shortage is an issue nationwide, but according to LifeShare, it’s starting to have a direct effect in Southwest Louisiana.

“We’re coming off battling COVID and then you put two hurricanes on top of that...we’re facing some unprecedented times and it has been a detriment to the blood supply,” said Lifeshare Regional Director Shawn Melancon.

Melancon says with only a few days supply on hand, the need for community help is urgent. However, the playing field is much different.

“It is difficult, businesses have been impacted. There are folks unemployed and businesses that have seen downsizing due to the effects of the pandemic,” said Melancon. “So, it’s a struggle to host successful blood drives.”

With the worst of COVID still on the horizon, given the recent holiday season...Daniel Fruge says hospitalizations remain steady and the need for blood is critical.

“Luckily, we’ve worked with Lifeshare locally and with partners at our corporate office...Lifeshare has been able to procure blood so we haven’t quite gotten to that position where we couldn’t give it but it’s been very close,” Fruge said.

Tuesday, Dr. Joseph Kanter, with the Louisiana Department of Health echoed the governor’s bleak picture of the state’s fight against COVID-19.

“The pandemic has never been as bad as it is right now,” Dr. Kanter said. “Community spread has never been higher than it is right now, in all 64 parishes.” “Hospitalizations are above both our previous spikes and what is more frightening than that is looking at the numbers we have not yet seen a suggestion that we are peaking and going down.”

“People are needing surgeries and blood and so hospitals are also seeing the folks who are having flu from flu season,” said Melancon.

Melancon says as the COVID numbers rise, so does the need for blood and convalescent plasma.

“And so, you tack the flu along with the accidents, and pandemic...the blood supply is really being stretched thin and all these things are impacting it and we’re not seeing enough donors come in. So, it becomes a really critical situation.

Lifeshare says you can donate blood if you’ve recovered from the coronavirus, as long as you haven’t had symptoms for the past 14 days.

January is also national blood donation month.

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