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Pennsylvania Faces Critical Blood Shortage

Growing demand, delayed care, fewer donors raise concerns about overall supply

August 19, 2021

Pennsylvania is facing a critical blood shortage, as demand has increased up to 25 percent since 2019 and the pandemic has limited the supply of donors, the state’s five major blood banks said today.

“At the present time, we and the other blood centers are just meeting patient transfusion needs,” said Dr. John Nobiletti, medical director for the American Red Cross Greater Pennsylvania Region. “However, we are having occasional short-term blood shortages.”

During a blood drive today, the Wolf administration and the state’s regional blood centers urged Pennsylvanians to help support the overall blood supply. They stressed the need to increase blood donors, especially among the state’s younger population.

“We can no longer assume that blood will be there when it is needed, or that someone else will step up to donate it,” said Deanna Renaud, executive director for the Community Blood Bank of Northwest Pennsylvania and Western New York. “An adequate blood supply is the responsibility of everyone living in a community. Every donation matters.” 

Among the key points from today’s event:

  • Increasing demand:  There has been greater demand for blood this year, as patients who delayed care during 2020 are undergoing scheduled procedures. An increase in trauma care and an aging population also have contributed to the demand challenges
  • Additional donors:  The pandemic has significantly decreased the number of regular donors at blood banks from pre-pandemic levels. Blood banks have an urgent need for 0-negative blood in particular
  • A fulfilling gift:  One blood donor can save up to three lives. About 36,000 units of red blood cells are needed every day in the U.S. It takes about two to three days before a blood donation is ready for transfusion at a local hospital

The demand for blood has increased between 5 percent and 25 percent compared to the same time period in 2019, said Dr. Kip Kuttner, medical director for the Miller-Keystone Blood Center said.

“The reason why we’re here today is because we’re concerned together that blood may not be available for a person who needs it, especially in the case of an emergency,” he said.

In southcentral Pennsylvania, hospitals are receiving about 80 percent of their normal inventory, said Patrick Bradley, president and CEO of Central Pennsylvania Blood Bank.

“The blood on the shelves is the blood that is going to save someone’s life today,” Bradley said.

How You Can Help:

All blood types are needed to make sure there is a reliable supply for patients. Most individuals are eligible to donate blood in Pennsylvania if they are: 

  • In good health 
  • 16 years old or older
  • Weigh a minimum of 120 pounds 

To donate blood, make an appointment with a local blood bank or visit an upcoming blood drive in your community. More information on blood donation is available online