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Hospitals in Northern Virginia struggle with blood shortage

A combination of colder months, COVID-19 and snow storms have made the need for blood supplies more dire.

STERLING, Va. — The ongoing blood shortage is worrying many hospital workers across Northern Virginia including Inova Health System, which continues to push for people to donate at one of its centers. 

Director of Inova Blood Donor Services Terri Craddock described the current shortage as stressful to properly ensure patients are equipped with the right blood supply. Craddock said patients have currently been receiving the necessary blood products but admits the lack of donations puts the system in an uneasy position. 

"We definitely do not want to have to choose who gets the blood product that's out there," Craddock told WUSA9. "It's a challenge to make sure we have everything we need for our patients. We do everything we can. We open longer hours, add more blood drives and we put up more testing runs to get our units tested and out the door as soon as possible over to our hospitals."

Inova already has rigorous patient blood management system in place for transfusions. Protocols have not changed, per Craddock, but providers are stressing guidelines before blood is ordered to conserve on inventory. 

January is normally a tough month for blood donations following the holidays, but a combination of the pandemic and snow storms made collections more difficult. 

The winter weather from Sunday night into Monday morning prompted Inova to cancel a blood drive in Fredericksburg. 

"It's definitely stressing the system so hopefully this opportunity and all the other opportunities that we have will get the word out to get more donors in the door," Craddock added.

The increase in COVID-19 cases is also reflected on the number of donors. Craddock said they have to wait 14 days before they can donate. 

The pandemic forced the donor services team to transition to blood mobiles, which are smaller. 

The Red Cross also said Tuesday it has seen a 10% decline in the number of people donating blood since the pandemic began. The decline coincided with the emergence of the Delta variant of COVID-19 followed by the Omicron variant. Donor turnout is down, blood drives have been canceled and there have been staffing shortages, the organization said.

To learn how to donate, click on this link

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