BILLINGS - Blood donation centers are sounding the alarms as a they continue to experience a nationwide blood and platelet shortage. St. Vincent Healthcare says the shortage has been going on for over a year.

In a Facebook post, a physician with St. Vincent Healthcare says blood supply is so low she had to decide which of her patients would receive the last amount they had. 

“We find ourselves in a situation where we have to call ordering doctors and ask them to maybe consider holding off on a transfusion or maybe not giving that transfusion entirely when we’re in a blood shortage situation and that’s a terrible position to be in," Dr. Michael Brown, Medical Director of the Transfusion Center, said.

Dr. Brown says donated blood is necessary for trauma patients, surgeries, cancer treatment and transfusions. Without it, it could mean life or death for some residents.

“We don’t want to be in that type of setting where we’re having to make decisions about who should and who should not get blood products," Dr. Brown said.

Vitalant Communications Manager Tori Robbins says the pandemic plays a big part in the decline of blood supply because they had to cancel many of their blood drives.

“Twenty to twenty-five percent of our blood supply comes from school drives so we are seeing a decline quicker and earlier than we’re used to,” Robbins said.

According to Robbins, they typically tend to see a drop in donations around the holidays, but weather conditions also play a role in donations.

“We often have to cancel blood drives because of weather related issues and so getting out and donating right away because that’s just one more factor that gets into a lower blood supply," Robbins said.

Robbins says Vitalant provides blood to the majority of Montana’s hospital and right now they need 1,000 more donations per week to ease the effects of the shortage. They are in urgent need of both type O blood and platelets.

She stresses they are taking precautions to keep you safe while you donate and says a COVID-19 vaccine or flu shot does not prevent someone from being able to donate.

St. Vincent Hospital will be holding a blood drive on Thursday, Oct. 21 from 2 p.m. to 6:45 p.m. It will be located at the Marillac Auditorium.

To sign up you can contact Melissa Siemsen at 406-237-8032, email melissa.siemsen@schlhealth.org or visit vitalant.org to schedule an appointment.

Vitalant takes donations seven days a week. You can visit donors.vitalant.org or call 877-25VITAL  to schedule an appointment to donate. 

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