Severe Blood Shortage Means Donations are Critical

SMITH CENTER, Kan. – The Smith County Memorial Hospital staff are dealing with a problem many of them have not seen during their careers: the worst blood shortage in more than a decade.

“We’re feeling the impact of this at home,” said Sarah Ragsdale, the hospital’s chief operating officer. “Our lab staff is unable to request blood from the American Red Cross, which puts our ability to care for patients at risk.”

The American Red Cross reports an overall decline in blood donations by 10% since March 2020. A large portion of the decrease is due to canceled blood drives, illness and inclement weather. As a result of the decline in giving, the Red Cross, which supplies 40% of the nation’s blood supply, has limited blood product distributions to hospitals. Recently, the organization reports having less than a one-day supply of critical blood types.

Donated blood is routinely used to replace blood loss from surgery, illness or injury. SCMH typically uses donated blood for patients undergoing chemotherapy, moms giving birth, trauma cases and routine surgeries and procedures.

“These services are important to the patients we see and the overall health of the communities we serve,” Ragsdale said. “We want to be accessible to patients for these services, and we know we need to be part of the solution to the blood crisis.”

Because of this, Ragsdale and the rest of the staff at SCMH have challenged fellow facilities in the Great Plains Health Alliance group to give as many liters of blood as possible during February.

“Our employees will be stepping up to make this a priority,” Ragsdale said.

The hospital wants to extend the challenge to businesses and organizations in North Central Kansas.

“If we can spread the word about the shortage and encourage people who aren’t usually blood donors to give at least this time, we’ll be doing a lot to help the health of the communities where we live and work.”

Smith Center hosts a blood drive on Thursday, Feb. 17, at the Armory. Local volunteer, Deborah Weltmer encourages those interested to make an appointment before coming to the event.

“There are always some walk-in appointments available but they may not be at a preferred time or when the donor is free,” Weltmer said. “We really think the administration of blood drives has gotten so much better with the ability to sign up online, even on the day of the drive, and the Red Cross app lets donors complete all their paperwork in a Rapid Pass so they are ready to give when they show up at the site.”

Those who may not be interested in using the website or app can call Weltmer at 785-282-4897 to make an appointment for the blood drive at the Armory.

“If the Smith Center event doesn’t work for you, then use the website to find a location and date that will work,” Weltmer said.

Donors are encouraged to visit and type in their zip code to look up alternate opportunities to give.