Central Valley health organizations combat blood shortage

Central California Blood Center as seen from the parking lot at 2245 W Caldwell Ave. just north of Dick’s Sporting Goods.(Kenny Goodman)

As a blood shortage persists nationwide, local hospitals and the Central California Blood Center make efforts to keep blood supply

VISALIA – Central Valley health organizations are on the search for blood donors as they work through a blood supply shortage being felt across the nation.

Despite this shortage, health facilities in the Central Valley are doing what they can to make sure patients in the Valley have an adequate supply of blood for medical use. Kaweah Health, Adventist Health and the Central California Blood Center are providing opportunities for residents to donate, and have also given some insight into how they are managing the blood shortage.

“Summer months are typically really difficult months to collect blood; and that’s not just here, that’s nationwide,” marketing communications manager at the Central California Blood Center, Gordon Halstead said. “There are lots of other blood centers across the nation that are going through the same kinds of shortages.”

Kaweah Health is responding to the shortage by holding an emergency blood drive event on Friday, July 14, from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. at the Kaweah Health Multi Service Center at 402 West Acequia Ave. in Visalia. The first 55 people to donate blood at the event will get one voucher for Tacos San Marcos and Asia’s Kitchen along with a Kaweah Health swag bag.

“Your RED is worth its weight in GOLD,” Kaweah Health stated on its emergency blood drive poster.

Adventist Health is also doing its part to fight the blood shortage. According to the marketing account manager Renee Garcia, Adventist Health Reedley will be holding its next blood drive 372 W. Cypress Ave. in Reedley on Monday, July 24 from 9 a.m. to 12 p.m. in collaboration with the Central California Blood Center.

Additionally, Garcia noted that Adventist Health has partnered with the Central California Blood Center since May to allow their mobile blood drives to operate outside their facilities.

The American Red Cross declared its first-ever national crisis from a severe blood shortage in January 2022, which according to the Red Cross, resulted from complications of the COVID-19 pandemic. This is because, during that time, hospitals and physicians were forced to make hard calls on how to best utilize the limited supply of donated blood that was available.

On July 10, the Red Cross made an announcement on their website that patients in need of blood transfusions are coming in faster than donations. The Red Cross has “collected about 50,000 fewer blood donations than needed over the last two months” and are also hosting their own blood drive events to combat the shortage.

In an emailed statement, Adventist Health confirmed the hospital has not had to divert any patients from its hospitals due to the national blood shortage. According to the statement, this is because the medical provider has “mitigation steps to obtain blood from a secondary blood supplier when our primary supplier cannot meet our demand.”

Kaweah Health confirmed that its facility has also not had to divert any patients from its medical care due to the shortage.

“However, the current need for blood is critical,” Kaweah Health’s communications team said via emailed statement. “Our hospital needs an adequate supply of blood to provide the best care possible for our patients.”

According to Kaweah Health, the blood shortage has intermittently impacted the medical center’s operations because blood products are utilized by many different types of patients. In its emergency department, it was noted that critical patients such as car accident victims, may need multiple transfusions to save their lives. Additionally, oncology and dialysis patients routinely need blood transfusions. 

“If the blood inventory remains low, some surgical procedures may have to be rescheduled,” Kaweah Health stated.

It was noted by the medical facility that when the blood supply is precarious, critically ill and emergency room patients are prioritized. Kaweah Health stated that its goal is to be able to fulfill all of its patient’s needs for blood, but when blood donations are low, it impacts the facility’s inventory and, therefore, its ability to react to emergencies. 

“There are times, particularly lately, where the demand for blood has outweighed the supply.  It is important to remind the general public to donate blood when possible for the safety of our community,” Kaweah Health stated. 

The facility’s communications team added that the potential effect of the blood shortage can dignify a delay in treatment, and that some patients may have to wait for treatment while the medical center sources supplies.

According to Halstead, from the Central California Blood Center, summer months are more difficult to get blood donations in general, because people typically have more going on in the summer. Many people go on trips, are taking care of kids who are off of school and managing holiday plans. At the same time, he noted that the increased travel creates more accidents that require blood transfusions.

“Around national holidays, we always see a dip (in donations) before and after the Fourth of July for about a week,” Halstead said.

He noted that this increase is one of many factors that further the need for donations. On top of this, he noted that patients such as cancer patients, birthing mothers and premature babies always need blood donations, no matter what time of the year it is.

From his observations with the blood center, Halstead said this shortage has been going on for almost four years.

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Central California Blood Center hours of operation and contact info located at 2245 W Caldwell Ave. just north of Dick’s Sporting Goods. (Kenny Goodman)

The Central California Blood Center has been doing what it can to combat the shortage. The Central California Blood Center has permanent locations and mobile blood drives in Tulare, Madera, Fresno, Kings and Mariposa counties.

All blood donations will help combat the blood shortage but there is a specific need for Type O blood. Those who want to combat the shortage can go to the event at the Kaweah Health Multi Service on July 14, Adventist Health on July 24, or find the location of the nearest Central California Blood Center at donateblood.org. The blood center welcomes walk-ins or donors can sign up for appointments online.

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