Blood platelet shortage impacting medical treatments amid lack of donors

May 23, 2022, 4:04 PM

People donate blood at Bloodworks Northwest on March 17, 2020 in Seattle, Washington. (Photo by Kar...

People donate blood at Bloodworks Northwest on March 17, 2020 in Seattle, Washington. (Photo by Karen Ducey/Getty Images)

(Photo by Karen Ducey/Getty Images)

Ongoing since the pandemic, a blood platelet shortage is reaching critical levels as deliveries are being rationed among local hospitals.

Bloodworks Northwest, a blood bank and medical research institute headquartered in Seattle, is unable to send full orders of platelets to cancer and surgery centers because there are not enough donors. The medical laboratory stated it was running dangerously low on Type O positive, O negative, and platelet donations.

Platelets help form blood clots, and Dr. Sandyha Panch at Fred Hutchinson Cancer Center says if the shortage lasts, it may force changes in cancer treatments.

“Right now, we’re giving half units to patients, and maybe saving the full units of platelets for people who are bleeding actively,” Panch said.

PNW blood platelet shortage no longer ‘critical,’ but 2,000 donations still needed

The platelet rationing could also lead to delays in elective surgery at local hospitals.

As blood banks across western Washington continue to deal with an ongoing shortage of blood, Kent’s mayor, Dana Ralph, is calling for more donations.

“It’s very concerning. We don’t know when the next person is going to be sick or there’s going to be some sort of tragic accident,” Ralph said. “Those are the things we can’t schedule out, so we have to make sure the supply exists for when those things happen.”

Ralph, a cancer survivor, used her platform and her donation to highlight the need to have enough blood on hand, especially during emergencies.

Bloodworks Northwest joined 30 other blood centers across the country to organize the Blood Emergency Readiness Corps. It is a first-in-the-nation partnership to ensure the local blood supply is consistent.

The collective is committed to preparing for mass transfusion disasters by collecting extra units for an emergency reserve.

Most recently, the Blood Emergency Readiness Corps sent reserves of blood to Kentucky after tornados struck in December 2021. The organization also shipped boxes of red blood cells for trauma care to the eight remaining victims of a school shooting in Michigan in December 2021.

The regional blood supply is hovering around a one- to two-day limit, according to Bloodworks Northwest. Washington and Oregon need approximately 1,000 donors daily to maintain a safe supply.

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Blood platelet shortage impacting medical treatments amid lack of donors