The WellSpan Spotlight

Health and wellness

Donors needed: Roll up your sleeve to help those in need

On this 52nd anniversary of National Blood Donor Month, we value the lifesaving impact from blood and platelet donations, but also recognize how the serious shortage of blood could impact care.

"Nationally, there is only about a 3-day supply of type O blood available now," said Dr. Michelle Erickson, medical director, Blood Bank and Blood Resources, chair, Department of Pathology, WellSpan York Hospital, and medical director, Clinical Laboratory. "This degree of blood shortage is unprecedented."

Type O donors are considered universal donors as they are used to donate to people with types A, B, AB, and O blood.

The problem with the shortage has several facets. Potential donors may be sick or unable to attend a blood drive at their local churches, schools, and workplaces because of COVID-19. Staff at blood centers are also impacted by the virus as many blood centers are short-staffed.

As a result, to stretch the blood supply to meet the needs of each patient, our WellSpan teams are working to ensure that blood is going to the patients who benefit the most.

"We want to be prudent, but we don't want to deny anyone the care they need," Dr. Erickson said.

Meeting the blood demand

The Apple Hill Donor Center services WellSpan York Hospital and runs the hospital's donor day each week.

The donor center in Lebanon provides blood for the region, including WellSpan Good Samaritan Hospital and runs a monthly donor day at the hospital for staff.

WellSpan's regional partner, Central Penn Blood Bank (CPBB) provides blood for WellSpan's remaining hospitals and fills the gaps when demand outpaces supply across the health system.

"Without the generous donors in the local population, Good Samaritan Hospital would be solely reliant on other facilities and Central Pennsylvania Blood Blank to keep us afloat," said Mark Lovett, medical technologist, WellSpan Good Samaritan Hospital.

By the numbers

In 2021, 5,449 units of red blood cells were collected in York, but to meet the 9,696 transfusions that occurred, 44 percent had to be purchased from CPBB. Likewise in Lebanon, 1,184 units of red blood cells were collected for patients at WellSpan Good Samaritan Hospital, but with 1,296 transfusions that were needed last year, nine percent of the supply fell short and nine percent had to be purchased from CPBB.

"While we continue to hover just below the minimum volume of units we prefer to keep on hand at all times, we have managed to continue dispensing red blood cells as needed for inpatients, the operating room, the emergency department, as well as WellSpan Sechler Family Cancer Center," Lovett added.

In the event of trauma or a condition where transfusions are routine, patients depend on this supply to live. In the case of severe injury from a motor vehicle accident, a patient may need 50-60 units of blood to survive the event, Dr. Erickson explained.

The call to help

After the recent plea for blood donors, WellSpan staff responded. In the last week, more than 125 team members came to WellSpan York Hospital, ready to roll up their sleeves and donate. Some were first time donors.

Dr. Christopher Rashidifard, orthopedic trauma surgeon, and several medical surgical residents stepped in to donate, and helped spread the word among their colleagues.

As a surgeon, he understands the importance of having enough blood supply on hand.

"For the most severe cases, we run the mass transfusion protocol several times the day of injury, and we can easily get through a lot of type O unmatched blood quite quickly," he said.

How to donate in your community

To make an appointment at a WellSpan blood donor center location, please call: 

  • WellSpan Blood Donor Center Apple Hill (York) – (717) 741-8307 
  • WellSpan Blood Donor Center Norman Drive (Lebanon) – (717) 270-8960 
  • Visit to schedule an appointment

For more information about our donor centers and eligibility, click here.