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Bellin Health "one transfusion away" from emergency protocol

Hospital blood banks taking divided rations from Red Cross
Posted at 6:52 PM, Jan 14, 2022
and last updated 2022-01-14 19:52:23-05

GREEN BAY, Wis. (NBC 26) — As the American Red Cross faces its first ever national shortage, Green Bay area hospitals are now unable to order blood from the non-profit based on weekly need and instead only receive rations divided amongst the Red Cross' national network of hospitals.

Dr. Paul Casey, the medical director of emergency medicine at Bellin Health as well as chair of their transfusion committee, says that the lack of blood stretches across all types. Previously, only type O supply was depleted, which impacts emergency trauma transfusions that require universal donors.

"Just talked to our blood bank manager this morning, and he's going to get one unit of type B and no units of type A this week," Dr. Casey said.

In between waves of coronavirus, hospital staffers have quietly been preparing for the pandemic to continue straining their resources – but these are unforeseen circumstances. Bellin Health began drafting their contingency plans for an eventual blood shortage last summer.

"I have been an ER doc 35 years, and I've never encountered the situation that came up last June where we had to think of what we would do if we don't have enough blood," Dr. Casey said.

While Dr. Casey says that the hospital is operating within their means for now, but they are one emergency transfusion away from cancelling elective surgeries again and enacting contingency protocols that would lower what they call a "transfusion trigger."

"We look at a lab value called hemoglobin, which is the measure of red blood cells," Dr. Casey said. "Typically in a normal adult male, that's 15. Currently, our transfusion trigger going by number is 7, so if your hemoglobin is less than 7, you get a transfusion. We would have to look at lowering that to 6 or even 5. That's crisis standard of care."