Some area blood supplies at low levels

August 30, 2006|by ERIN CUNNINGHAM

HAGERSTOWN - Supplies of some blood types are at critically low levels across the region, a shortage that is troubling officials who know that the need for blood will rise over Labor Day weekend.

Cindy Blackstock, director of emergency services for the Washington County chapter of the American Red Cross, said the region has about a one-day supply of blood. A normal amount is about a three-day supply, she said.

"We never have a surplus," she said. "If we have just enough blood on the shelves to get us through a normal situation, imagine how bad it would be if there was a disaster."

Kathy McCartney, technical specialist for the Washington County Hospital blood bank, said the hospital is only critically short of O negative blood - the universal donor type. She has about 90 percent of the supply that's recommended for other blood types.


"For O negative, it's been tight here in the past few weeks," she said. "We're in good shape for all other types."

The hospital typically has 12 units of O negative blood on hand, McCartney said. Tuesday she said the hospital had six units.

"The minimum is six, and we're at six," she said.

One unit of blood is equal to 300 milliliters of blood, roughly one-half pint. Once blood supplies drop to a critical level at the hospital, she said they can contact other hospitals or the Red Cross for an emergency delivery.

That happened Saturday, she said, when the level of type A blood fell to eight units. The hospital should have 32 units in the blood bank.

"Anytime, 24 hours a day, we constantly monitor our minimum levels," McCartney said. "As long as there's no accidents on Interstate 70, we're all right."

Teresa Elwood, director of blood services for the Washington County chapter of the American Red Cross, said Labor Day weekend can mean an increased number of drivers on the areas highways, including I-70 and Interstate 81. Unfortunately, she said this means there is an increased likelihood that accidents will occur.

"Washington County Hospital is a trauma center," she said. "That means that every time there is an accident on I-70 or I-81 they'll be transferred (there)."

Red Cross officials said this could cause already low supplies in the region to drop even lower.

"Giving blood is just like preparing for any other type of emergency," Elwood said. "It's on the shelf, ready to help. You don't know when the next tragedy or emergency is going to be."

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