Watch CBS News

'Very, Very Difficult Decisions': Chicago Doctors Worry As Blood Shortages Affect Area Hospitals

CHICAGO (CBS) -- The nation's blood supply has been a big concern throughout the pandemic.

This week, the Red Cross declared a national blood crisis for the first time. CBS 2 wanted to know how the shortage is affecting Chicago hospitals and patients. CBS 2's Jackie Kostek has more the dire outlook from Chicago area doctors.

Hospital systems are already under a lot of stress from the ongoing pandemic. This blood shortage is only adding to the obstacles they are facing and many said they don't expect it to go away any time soon.

"Our responsiveness is blunted and it's severely blunted and we don't have any contingency plan," said Dr. Phillip DeChristopher, Medical Director at the Loyola blood bank.

Hospital systems across Chicago and the suburbs are facing a critical shortage of blood that many said has quickly gone from bad to worse. DeChristopher, who runs Loyola's blood bank, said the Red Cross had to begin allocating certain in demand blood - O in particular - last month. But by next week, he expects they'll receive less of every kind of blood.

"We have to start coming to grips with making decisions about allocating the blood we have and those are going to be very, very difficult decisions," DeChristopher said.

Those difficult decisions are already being made. At University of Chicago Medical Center, trauma surgeon Dr. Priya Prakash said the blood shortage has meant rationing.

"I haven't been in a situation where I haven't been able to give a patient blood who absolutely needs blood," Prakash said. "We are very cognizant of making sure people get the treatment they absolutely need."

The same goes for Northwestern, according to Dr. Glenn Ramsey.

"Right now we're getting about half or less of what we would normally get," Ramsey said. "We're also limiting transfusions to one unit at a time and then making sure the patient needs another unit before automatically giving two or three units.

At Advocate Aurora, the shortage has forced the hospital to prioritize who gets seen when.

"We have had to cancel or reschedule some elective procedures because we need to take care of urgent patient care. Trauma patients and perhaps sickle cell crises that just cannot wait," said Dr. Gary Stuck.

While none of these hospital systems see the supply issue changing any time soon, there is one bit of hope. The supply can be boosted in one way and one way only: Eligible donors pulling up their sleeves to help save lives.

The American Red Cross said there was more than a 60% drop in blood drives at schools and colleges since the start of the pandemic. However, there are still many places you can donate, if you are an eligible donor.

Click here for more information on how and where to donate.

View CBS News In
CBS News App Open
Chrome Safari Continue
Be the first to know
Get browser notifications for breaking news, live events, and exclusive reporting.