Blood shortages forced the Los Angeles County Department of Health Services to close one of its trauma centers for hours earlier this week to new patients — a step it hadn’t taken in more than three decades, county department officials said Wednesday.
The trauma center at Harbor-UCLA Medical Center will be closed to new patients for more than two hours Monday, a department spokesperson said. It had to contact other hospitals in the DHS blood system to reopen.
dr. Marianne Gausche-Hill, medical director of the Los Angeles County EMS Agency, said LA County hadn’t had to close a trauma center for patients in more than 30 years because of insufficient blood supply.
“I cannot emphasize enough how urgent and critical this blood shortage is for LA County residents,” Gausche-Hill said.
dr. Christina Ghaly, director of the health services division, said the critical blood shortage, coupled with rising hospitalizations of COVID-19 patients and staff shortages, could affect how hospitals can provide information to the public “in much more serious ways”. concerns than last winter’s wave, resulting in canceled operations and delayed care for those in need.
“Closing a trauma center amid a COVID-19 wave — when hospitals and ambulance services are already struggling and when emergency departments are already under pressure — could lead to dangerous delays for patients in need of urgent life-saving medical attention, Ghaly said in a statement.
She argued that unless Southern California blood banks ensure that limited supply is prioritized for designated LA County trauma centers, “we could see trauma centers closing more often and for extended periods of time in the coming weeks.” Ghaly urged Angelenos to donate blood if they could.
The Red Cross, which says it is now facing its… worst blood shortage in more than a decade has been blamed for declining donations during the pandemic and flu season. High school and college students, which once accounted for a quarter of annual donors, are much less likely to give because on-campus blood collections have been canceled.
The blood shortage is just one of the forces putting pressure on local hospitals: An increasing number of healthcare workers have become infected with COVID-19 as the highly contagious Omicron variant has spread.
In light of those staff shortages, California is allowing asymptomatic health workers who have tested positive for the coronavirus to: right back to work — a policy that alarmed many workers and community members.