The Lead

With Pa. Facing ‘critical shortage,’ state physician general issues call for donations

By: - February 3, 2022 2:53 pm

Physician General Dr. Denise A. Johnson speaks with the press. Pennsylvania Physician General Dr. Denise Johnson and Patrick Bradley, President and CEO of the Central Pennsylvania Blood Bank, expressed their growing concern over the dramatically decreasing number of volunteers who regularly donate blood, during a news conference highlighting the critical need for blood donation across the commonwealth. February 03, 2022 – Hummelstown, Pa

HUMMELSTOWN, Pa. –  Pennsylvania is in critical need of blood donations following months of decline during the COVID-19 pandemic, state health officials and blood bank leaders said Thursday. 

Speaking to reporters from the Central Pennsylvania Blood Bank in suburban Harrisburg, state Physician General Dr. Denise Johnson said the commonwealth is experiencing a shortage in its blood supply and urged eligible residents to donate blood. 

“An adequate supply of blood is essential to ensure Pennsylvanians have safe, continuous access to the highest quality of healthcare,” Johnson said. “I encourage all Pennsylvanians to consider giving blood.”  

Blood donations are needed to provide blood transfusions for a variety of medical treatments, including during major surgeries, cancer treatments, and in the treatment of traumatic injuries and chronic illnesses. 

Johnson blamed the shortage on the abrupt cancellation of blood drives at schools and community centers across the commonwealth due to COVID-19 outbreaks.

“The critical shortage of blood across Pennsylvania and the nation is still a major concern as COVID-19 has prevented some donors from giving blood and impacted the scheduling of blood drives,” Johnson said, adding that the dwindling supply and hindrance of COVID-19 has left the state in a “very difficult position.”

Patrick Bradley, president and CEO of the Central Pennsylvania Blood Bank, said another cause for the shortage is the lack of phlebotomists, the technicians who draw blood.

“A significant factor contributing to blood shortages is a decrease in the amount of people entering the field of phlebotomy,” Bradley said. “There is a high demand for these positions as it requires a unique skillset. To help with this challenge, Pennsylvania blood centers provide the necessary education and training to begin a career in phlebotomy.”   

The Central Pennsylvania Blood Bank, which provides blood to 21 hospitals in the Greater Harrisburg region, said it is currently only filling 70 percent of hospital blood requests. 

“We’ve been struggling mightily,”  Bradley told reporters. 

Explaining just how dire the situation is, Bradley said that between December 2021 and January 2022, the bank only saw about half of the 250 donors needed each day to fulfill 100 percent of hospital blood requests.

Individuals recovering from COVID-19 can donate blood 10 days after symptoms reside, according to Food & Drug Administration guidance. 

Additionally, individuals who wish to donate blood must be:

  • In good health,
  • Age 16 or older, 
  • Weigh at least 120 lbs.

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Cassie Miller
Cassie Miller

A native Pennsylvanian, Cassie Miller worked for various publications across the Midstate before joining the team at the Pennsylvania Capital-Star. In her previous roles, she has covered everything from local sports to the financial services industry.