LifeSouth says local blood supply at critical level

LifeSouth Community Blood Centers has issued an urgent call for blood citing critically low supply levels in the Gainesville area. 

LifeSouth defines an emergency need as a two-day supply or less on the shelves. In this case, the most common blood type, O positive, is on backorder. 

“At the end of Thursday we were backordered 60 units of O positive blood,” LifeSouth spokeswoman Laura Bialeck said in a phone interview. “The hospitals ordered it, and we don’t have that supply.”

Bialeck said B positive supply is also backordered, but she said the need runs across all blood types. Backorders can result in delays for some elective surgeries. 

Bialeck attributed the emergency situation to both supply and demand issues. On the demand side, she cited an increase in trauma events—particularly car accidents—and an increase in organ transplants at UF Health. 

“When someone has like a liver transplant, there has to be a lot of blood on hand for that,” she said. 

On the supply side, Bialeck said the pandemic has made it challenging to schedule blood drives. Major businesses LifeSouth has partnered with in the past are still having employees work remotely—and even when they return, many will operate at 50 percent capacity. 

Blood drives at area high schools accounted for 20 percent of blood supply before the pandemic, Bialeck said, but schools have said they will not allow on-site blood drives through the end of 2021. Bialeck said off-campus drives have not proved as successful. 

“It’s not the same as going into school and they know they get that time off from class,” she said. 

Bialeck said some 40 percent of the population has O positive blood, so the fact that it’s one of the most critical areas of need shows the extent of the problem. 

“O positive is not usually a type we run out of, because it’s a very common blood type,” she said. “It’s crazy to be this low. It’s representative of how dramatically donations have decreased and how much hospital usage has increased.”

LifeSouth operates two donation centers in Gainesville, one in Alachua, one in Chiefland, and one in Lake City, in addition to bloodmobiles criss-crossing the region. To find the nearest locations, visit the LifeSouth website and enter your zip code. 

LifeSouth gives blood donors a recognition item and wellness screen that includes a COVID-19 antibody test. No appointment is necessary, but donors must be 17, or 16 with parental permission, and weigh at least 110 pounds. LifeSouth also requires a photo ID to give blood. 

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