Uptick in violent crime adds to blood shortage at Virginia hospitals


An increase in violent crime has led to more trauma cases at some Virginia hospitals, aggravating the ongoing blood shortage, local CBS affiliate WTKR reported July 12. 

An uptick in gunshot victims has contributed to a 10 percent spike in emergency room demand across the state's hospitals this year, according to WTKR

"This is an [an] unprecedented shortage that we've never seen before," said Daniel Munn, MD, chief of surgery at Riverside Regional Medical Center in Newport News, Va. "We are basically receiving about half of what we normally have as our standard order of blood products. We're constantly on shortage and constantly trying to maintain our normal operations with much more limited supply," Dr. Munn, who is also the surgery director for trauma and acute care, told WTKR

"One major trauma can deplete our entire supply very quickly," Dr. Munn said, noting that a single gunshot victim usually needs about six units of blood. A patient with multiple wounds would need 30 to 40 units. 

"We always backfill as quickly as we can, and we have all sorts of mechanisms in place to try and refill our supply and make sure that we never go below a critical level, but the shortage is that significant," he said. 

The shortage is not solely linked to an increase in trauma cases though, Dr. Munn said. "It's also the continuous use of blood products for cancer patients and open heart surgeries and other things like that that are also using blood products constantly and that impacts the shortage as well." 

The hospital is working with the Red Cross to ensure they don't run out of blood, Mark Rath, Riverside's associate vice president of accreditation and support operations told the news outlet. 

"Through careful case review and utilization, we have achieved approximately a 25 percent reduction in blood use while still providing excellent care to our patients," Mr. Rath said. 

At Bon Secours Mary Immaculate in Newport News, the hospital is shifting some transfusion patients, such as those with chronic anemia or a nutritional deficiency, to ensure those with an unexpected need for blood can quickly get it. 

"We're being very careful with our small supply," said Marlene Capps, MD, the system's CMO. "Everyday, we do an inventory of what we have and what we might need and manage, especially outpatients who come in for transfusions that could wait a week or two. We've had to juggle some folks. Rather than coming in this week, wait until we could get a supply of what they needed in a week or two if our supplies otherwise for that day were just too low to protect us in the event that one of our laboring women or one of our surgical cases would unexpectedly need a blood product," she told WTKR

Despite the blood shortage, both Bon Secours and Riverside said they haven't had to delay elective surgeries because of it. 

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