COVID-19 creates dramatic blood shortage

Beebe and Bayhealth join forces to urge people to save lives by making a donation
November 16, 2020

In a time when hospitals are in need of blood more than ever, supplies are down dramatically.

Beebe Healthcare and Bayhealth have joined forces with Blood Bank of Delmarva in a campaign to increase blood donations at area donor centers by asking college and high school students, as well as other donors, to make appointments at the Dover or Salisbury donation centers.

On Nov. 16, officials gathered in front of Beebe Healthcare's Margaret H. Rollins Campus to make the appeal.

“As we enter this season of giving, please keep in mind the critical shortage of blood being experienced right now in our communities but also nationwide,” said Dr. David Tam, president and CEO of Beebe Healthcare.

Beebe is currently having a blood drive among its employees after having three drives this summer.

“Now more than ever, we are relying on our community to donate blood,” said Kelly Abbrescia, Bayhealth medical director for emergency services. “The COVID-19 pandemic has created many challenges for the healthcare community, including a decrease in blood supplies.”

Mobile donations plummet

In 2019, 7,000 donors came from college and high school blood drives, which have all been suspended because of the COVID-19 pandemic. That has left the blood bank with just 43 percent of pre-pandemic mobile donation levels.

“This is an unprecedented shortage of blood, and we are looking for long-term solutions,” said Tony Prado, blood bank's communications specialist. “COVID-19 has caused havoc with our mobile donations.”

Delmarva's healthcare system requires 350 donations every day to meet blood demands to treat patients ranging from trauma victims to newborn babies and their mothers to cancer patients.

Ralph Groves, Blood Bank of Delmarva account manager, said it typically has successful summer blood drives at hospitals and businesses and corporations. In 2019, the BBoD received 900 units from hospitals with 300 units this year. In 2019, corporate drives generated 4,000 units but just 500 units in 2020.

In the fall when high schools are back in session, 25 percent of the blood bank's donations come from school blood drives, which are not taking place. “This is catastrophic, not only for immediate donations but for the future,” Groves said. “High school donors have their first donation experience in school while being supported by their friends. It is that experience that leads them to be a lifetime blood donor. We are losing that generation right now with COVID unless we do something different.”

He said a large percentage of donors are 50 years and older, and they are not replacing older donors with younger ones.

Groves said the blood bank can no longer use small collection sites because of social-distancing requirements.

In addition, Bloodmobiles can't be used because of their tight quarters.

“We are appealing to Kent and Sussex counties for donations,” said Megan Johnson, manager of project services. “We are not filling all hospital orders that depend on us for life-saving products. We need the community's help.”

How to donate blood

In this area, local centers are operational at Lewes Senior Center, Georgetown CHEER Center and Lutheran Church of Our Savior in Rehoboth Beach.

To make an appointment to donate blood, phone 888-825-6638 or go on line to Centers are open daily in Dover and Salisbury, and have added some weekend hours.

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