Valentina Baez-Sosa, MD: The Blood Crisis is a Huge Concern

While Omicron cases surge, Valentina, Baez-Sosa, MD, speaks on the national blood shortage and the risk it poses to patients with sickle cell disease in particular.

Since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, the amount of blood donors has decreased tremendously. January is National Blood Donor Month, which has coincided with the COVID-19 Omicron surge and the first-ever national blood crisis declaration from the American Red Cross.

Last year, the American Red Cross, who supplies approximately 40% of the nation's blood supply, reported a 34% decline in new blood donors.

“While some types of medical care can wait, others can’t,” Dr. Pampee Young, chief medical officer of the Red Cross, said in a statement. “Hospitals are still seeing accident victims, cancer patients, those with blood disorders like sickle cell disease, and individuals who are seriously ill who all need blood transfusions to live even as Omicron cases surge across the country."

The shortage has had a tremendous effect on the country's health care system and patients. Valentina Baez-Sosa, MD, Chief Hematology-Oncology Fellow at MedStar Washington Hospital Center, explained the possible implications of the blood crisis in an interview with HCPLive®.

"This is a huge concern," Baez-Sosa said, "and I think I can give you even more numbers because, according to the American Red Cross, we need like 36,000 units of red blood cells, and 7000 units of platelets, and even 10,000 units of plasma. That is the daily requirements."

Among the patient populations at risk is the sickle cell disease (SCD) community. Depending on the type of SCD, patients may be undergoing frequent blood transfusions as necessary treatment.

"We also know that blood is used for a number of treatments like cancer, orthopedic surgeries, transplant, but especially patients with blood disorders, like sickle cell," Baez-Sosa explained. "So without the necessary amount of donations, hospitals will be prevented from providing the best care to our patients."

"And I've seen firsthand, the implications of the blood shortage affecting patient care," she continued, "even in the life threatening situation where patients with sickle cell are highly affected."

The convenience of donating blood may have disappeared as the pandemic spread, and as long as the necessary precautions are taken, it's absolutely possible to donate blood and stay safe during the Omicron surge.

"So," Baez-Sosa said, "the biggest take home point will be to encourage people to donate and save lives."