Minnesota doctors say nationwide blood shortage is 'worst we've ever seen it'

A staffer sorts through blood donations. (FOX 9)

Dr. Lauren Anthony helps to run one of the labs at Abbott Health Northwestern in Minneapolis. In her more than 10 years of working at the hospital, she can’t recall a time when the blood shortage at the hospital kept her up at night.

"I’ve been here with Allina Health since 2010 and this is the worst we’ve ever seen it," she told FOX 9. "This is the most severe shortage we’ve seen in the past 10 years."

The summer has historically been a critical season for blood supplies because people are not donating as much when the weather gets warmer.

"Between Memorial Day and Labor Day, people generally have a lot of things going on," says Sue Thesenga, regional communication manager for The American Red Cross. "They’re enjoying the outdoors more, enjoying get-togethers, and taking vacations."

But this upcoming summer is different because the pandemic has made a busy season much worse.

"During the pandemic, a lot of hospitals delayed elective surgeries and perhaps with them beginning that again, they’re using more blood products," says Thesenga.

Inside Abbott Health Northwestern, the blood donations are going quick and the supply can’t keep up with the demand between people who already have surgeries scheduled and those needing emergency operations.

"We don't want to take anybody to surgery unless we have blood in our bank and we always have more in our bank for somebody who has bleeding after delivery or trauma," says Dr. Anthony.

That’s why she’s asking the community for help by donating blood. Local hospitals will have to make tough decisions without donations.

"Patients who already delayed their surgery may need to delay it another few weeks until we can stabilize the blood supply with more donations."

According to Thesenga, The Red Cross currently has an emergency need for platelet and type O blood donors as hospital demand for these blood products continues to outpace donations.

"Type O blood is the most needed blood group by hospitals. Type O positive is the most transfused blood type and can be transfused to Rh-positive patients of any blood type," Thesenga adds. "Type O negative is the universal blood type and what emergency room personnel reach for when there is no time to determine the blood type of patients in the most serious situations."

For a list of blood and platelet donation sites, head to the American Red Cross Twin Cities' website.