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Local patients at risk due to severe blood shortages

National blood shortages can have dramatic impact on South Texas patients

On Monday and Tuesday of this week, the South Texas Blood & Tissue Center distributed more than 1,081 units of blood to local hospitals.

Only 480 blood donations were made on the same two days in total. The demand for blood donors remains extremely urgent, with 500 donations a day needed to meet patient needs. 

It’s a disturbing trend that shows no signs of changing. The COVID-19 pandemic has contributed a secondary national health emergency – a dramatic blood shortage for patients from coast to coast.

“The need for blood increased 35% in January, far more than what we normally see around this time of year. This is straining our local blood supply and putting our community at risk.”

Adrienne Mendoza, vice president of Blood Operations at South Texas Blood & Tissue Center, a subsidiary of San Antonio-based nonprofit BioBridge Global

In January, several critically injured patients needed more than 40 units of blood, which can be a hospital’s entire supply. In addition, area hospitals recorded an increased need for blood for liver transplants and open-heart surgeries.

That need is on top of requirements for new mothers and newborns, as well as cancer patients.

“We have had too many badly injured patients over the past two weeks that we have consumed more blood products than likely any two-week period in time for injured patients at University Hospital.”

Dr. Donald Jenkins, trauma care surgeon at University Health System. 

Blood shortages have been a continuing issue during the COVID-19 pandemic, since thousands of blood drives have been canceled from coast to coast, including hundreds in South Texas. Winter storms in the Northeast are further stressing the supply, since centers in hard-hit areas are unable to collect blood.  

“Usually when there are shortages, community blood centers work together to fill the need, but in this case, the shortage is nationwide and no one has any unallocated blood to send,” Mendoza said.  

Due to the shortage, the Center is extending hours at the donor rooms at Shavano Park and the Donor Pavilion on IH 10, from Thursday to Saturday. Donors can make an appointment by visiting SouthTexasBlood.org or calling 210-731-5590. 

Shavano Donor Room:
Thursday, Feb. 4 – Saturday, Feb. 6: 8 a.m. – 6 p.m.

Donor Pavilion Donor Room:
Thursday, Feb. 4: 8:30 a.m. – 7:30 p.m.
Friday, Feb. 5: 7:30 a.m. – 7:30 p.m.
Saturday, Feb. 6: 7 a.m. – 7 p.m.

All South Texas Blood & Tissue Center donors in February will receive a $10 Amazon gift card, voucher for a 20-ounce smoothie of their choice from Smoothie King on Sundays, as well as points to redeem additional gift cards or merchandise.

Blood donors also can give at the University Hospital Blood Donor Room, 4502 Medical Drive. To schedule an appointment with University Hospital, call 210-358-2812.