Pandemic Forces Halt on Neighbor-Island Blood Drives Impacting State Supply
Blood Bank of Hawai‘i (BBH) will host its first neighbor-island drive on Kaua‘i starting Aug. 25 after a five-month hiatus. All blood types are needed and will be used. However, BBH is experiencing the highest demand for both O-positive and O-negative blood types on an ongoing basis, with or without COVID-19.
“To stabilize the current blood supply, Blood Bank of Hawai‘i’s goal is to secure 140 appointments per day,” said Todd Lewis, BBH Chief Operating Officer about the upcoming drive on Kaua‘i.
BBH is currently exploring ways to safely visit donors on Maui and Hawai‘i Island. Once plans are finalized and they have county leadership approval, they will make those announcements.
BBH hasn’t been able to host neighbor-island drives since March. The decision was made in consultation with county mayors in order to mitigate the risk of spreading COVID-19 in the community.
“We paused both neighbor-island drives and community-sponsored drives on O‘ahu at the same time, so that immediately impacted our mobile collections, which represents about 70% of our annual collections,” Lewis said.
Lewis said BBH had to create an O‘ahu-based collections system that relies on donors coming to its two fixed sites in Honolulu and three mobile buses established as pop-up locations. People are not used to to this scaled-back model as they are more accustomed to BBH coming into the community.
“It’s been difficult and we’ve relied on imports when we’ve had to in order to maintain our distribution efforts at all hospitals,” Lewis said. “There have been days when we really struggled to keep up with demand, especially with certain blood types.”
Hawai‘i’s O-type supply, Lewis explained, has dipped from a comfortable three-day supply to as low as a one-day supply, and that is especially concerning due to hurricane season and with so many people in the ICU.
“O-negative is in highest demand because it’s accepted by everyone,” Lewis said. “O-positive can be used by anyone with a positive blood type, which is the majority of people in Hawaii, so that’s second-highest in demand.”
Kona Community Hospital officials say BBH has managed to provide them blood supply throughout these past several months.
“Although there have been times when there have been shortages of O-negative blood they have managed to recruit their O‘ahu donors and have continued to supply not only KCH but the entire state,” said KCH’s in-house Clinical Labs manager.
In the last few months, the Clinical Labs manager said KCH’s blood usage has pretty much returned to normal with normal use for both inpatients and the infusion center. The hospital rotates blood back and forth to BBH weekly for packed red blood cells and daily for platelets.
“There have been no problems associated with that process,” the manager said. “I don’t have any concerns regarding the blood supply both at our hospital and at BBH.”
BBH also has been collecting convalescent plasma from donors who have recovered from COVID-19 to provide needed support for sick patients with the virus.
To make an appointment or learn more about safety measures, visit bloodbanktough.org or call 808-848-4770.