Intermountain Healthcare

Critical Blood Shortage Addressed by Utah's Health Systems


Salt Lake City, UT -- (ReleaseWire) -- 07/07/2021 --Utah is experiencing the blood shortage being felt national wide, and hospitals and blood suppliers are calling on donors to help address the critical need as demand increases amid one of the busiest times of the year – trauma season.

Officials from two major Utah health systems – Intermountain Healthcare and University of Utah Health – joined with two of the state's leading blood suppliers – ARUP Blood Services and the American Red Cross of Utah – to address the shortage this week.

They were also joined by two Utah patients (one an organ transplant donor and one a recipient), whose transplant procedure at Intermountain Medical Center was delayed recently and rescheduled due to low blood inventory.

Experts say several factors are at play: rising trauma cases, a spike in surgeries and procedures that were deferred during the COVID-19 pandemic that are now being performed. Also, donor turnout appears to be lower than normal this summer, as Americans get their COVID-19 vaccine and resume summer travels and activities after more than a year of quarantining and limited activity due to the pandemic.

The need for blood donations across the nation is at an all-time high, including Utah.

The American Red Cross attributes the need to rising trauma cases as summer is underway, transplants, and surgeries which have depleted the nation's blood inventory.

In addition to atypically high number of trauma cases, hospitals across the country are seeing people who put off necessary surgeries or deferred care during the height of the pandemic present with more advanced disease progression, requiring increased blood transfusions.

During the last three months, the Red Cross has distributed an additional 75,000 blood products more than expected to meet these needs, significantly decreasing the national blood supply.

"We're asking that Utahns step up and donate during this critical time," said Dr. Rob Ferguson, senior medical director of surgical operations at Intermountain Healthcare. "It's vital that we have enough blood to treat patients who are undergoing surgeries and procedures, as well as trauma patients who are brought in from the scene of an accident who are fighting for their lives."

Blood is perishable and cannot be stockpiled, it has a shelf life of about 42 days, so it must constantly be replenished by generous blood donors.

Type O is the most in-demand blood type and often the first to be depleted from hospital shelves during a shortage.

Type O negative is the universal blood type and what emergency room personnel reach for when there is a no time to determine the blood type of patients in the most serious situations. Type O positive is the most common blood type and be transfused to Rh-positive patients of any blood type.

Twenty to forty percent of trauma deaths that occur after hospital admission involve massive hemorrhaging, and doctors need a secure blood supply to help fight those odds. To save a life in these circumstances, hospitals may need hundreds of blood products depending on the severity of the trauma.

Donor turnout appears to be particularly lower than normal this summer, as Americans get their COVID-19 vaccine and resume summer travels and activities after more than a year of quarantining and limited activity due to the pandemic.

Healthy individuals are needed to donate now and throughout the summer to help patients counting on lifesaving blood. Intermountain physicians predict the shortage may last 60 to 90 days.

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About Intermountain Healthcare
Intermountain Healthcare is a nonprofit system of 25 hospitals, 225 clinics, a Medical Group with 2,600 employed physicians and advanced practice clinicians, a health insurance company called SelectHealth, and other health services in Utah, Idaho, and Nevada. Intermountain is widely recognized as a leader in transforming healthcare by using evidence-based best practices to consistently deliver high-quality outcomes and sustainable costs. For updates, see