Universal blood type in short supply across region

A shortage of type O-negative blood throughout the Bay Area — exacerbated by this past weekend’s ravaging storms — has forced one surgery at UC San Francisco Medical Center to be postponed and caused one hospital to receive less blood than requested for a heart operation.

Kim-Anh Nguyen, medical director of Blood Centers of the Pacific, called the current shortage of O-negative blood one of the worstin recent history. O-negative blood is valuable because it can usually be administered to individuals of any blood type.

The blood-bank network, which supplies hospitals in the Bay Area, had just six units of O-negative blood in its inventory as of 4:30 p.m. Tuesday. “We like to have 75,” Nguyen said.

Hospitals have been told to postpone elective surgeries for people with O-negative blood types, but there were still requests for 20 units of blood Tuesday, she said.

The blood bank has been forced to look at each request on a case-by-case basis, and could only give two units rather than four to the hospital, not identified by Nguyen, performing the heart surgery.

Dr. Suchi Pandey, a transfusion fellow at UCSF Medical Center, said one surgeon there postponed a major elective procedure, anticipating the shortage.

January is always a rough month for blood banks because it comes right after the holidays, but this year has been particularly severe because of the bad weather and power outages, Nguyen said. She said the problem is not likely to be solved for two or three weeks.

kworth@examiner.com

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