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The Aegis
Harford County

Harford County is feeling the pinch of the nationwide blood shortage

Harford County has felt the nationwide blood shortage in the county’s two hospitals, UM Upper Chesapeake Medical Center and Harford Memorial Hospital, especially amid this recent COVID surge.

“It has been a challenge,” said Fermin Barrueto, chief medical officer of University of Maryland Upper Chesapeake.

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Barrueto said the shortage has caused his hospitals to “better plan” for surgeries that will require blood.

“It doesn’t mean that we stopped them – it just means that we really have to plan for them,” he said. “And sometimes we have said, ‘It may be safer to do your surgery at another hospital,’ simply because we were concerned about the blood supply that we had here.”

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He said this was the first time since he took over as chief medical officer in 2016 that the hospital system had to reconsider a type of surgery to perform because of concerns over blood supply.

Barreuto cited several reasons behind the shortage: problems with staffing among people who run blood drives, COVID restrictions and people getting COVID themselves.

“It’s a confluence of all of those reasons that we are really imploring people to donate [blood] now,” he said.

A spokesperson for UMUCH said they have collected 448 pints of blood since October.

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Ashley Henyan, communications director for the American Red Cross’ National Capital & Greater Chesapeake Region, said the situation has been “pretty dire” for the past five months.

“The need, it’s just ongoing,” she said. “It never stops.”

She noted that 600 appointments in the region to donate blood have been cancelled since the beginning of January “because some drives just had to cancel due to winter weather.”

However, Henyan said that in Harford County, the Red Cross is “on track” to meet its goal to collect a total of 420 pints of blood by the end of February. There are 11 Red Cross blood drives in the county for the remainder of the month, two of which are off-campus UMUCH blood drives.

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Appointments are mostly full for February, but spots are still open for March to help meet the Red Cross’ goal of collecting a total of 600 pints from the county in March, Henyan said.

“If there’s no appointments available right now, please still go to redcrossblood.org and look a couple of weeks out, even a month out or so and schedule that blood donation appointment,” Henyan said, “because the blood will still be needed at that time.”

Barreuto said the shortage has been “across the board” for all blood types, but Henyan noted that O negative blood is especially in demand because it’s the universal blood type and often used when someone’s blood type is unknown.

Katherine Smith of Jarrettsville, a regular donor giving blood for the 34th time, is assisted by American Red Cross phlebotomist Tyeneisha Bell, during a blood drive at the Jarrettsville Volunteer Fire Company on Tuesday, Feb. 8, 2022.
The American Red Cross runs a blood drive at the Jarrettsville Volunteer Fire Company, with donors by appointment only, on Tuesday, Feb. 8, 2022.
American Red Cross phlebotomist Catherine Harrison prespares the arm of Airville, Pa., resident Ericka Van Pelt during a blood drive at the Jarrettsville Volunteer Fire Company on Tuesday, Feb. 8, 2022.
American Red Cross phlebotomist Catherine Harrison gets Street resident John Smith ready to donate blood during a blood drive at the Jarrettsville Volunteer Fire Company on Tuesday, Feb. 8, 2022.

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