The COVID-19 pandemic hit Miller-Keystone Blood Center. It caused many problems, including a halt to blood drives, fewer donors, and frighteningly low supplies. Staffing issues have also become a problem over the past two years.
The center’s supply needs are constant. As COVID precautions have eased, the center has reopened blood drives. Dr. Kip Kuttner is the center’s vice president medical director.
Kuttner stated last week that inventories seem a bit more positive than they were.
High school students used to be the largest single donor group at the center, contributing about 15% of all donations. However, the pandemic stopped blood drives at schools and other places.
Miller-Keystone was able to receive blood donations at her convenience during the pandemic. Kuttner also spoke highly of the “extraordinary cooperation” and communication with hospitals and networks that have held blood drives in the past two years, such as Lehigh Valley Health Network.
Miller-Keystone restarted blood drives only in December and will now go to “anyplace that will help us,” Kuttner stated. The center will host drives just like pre-pandemic while also accommodating the needs and requests of those who wish to host.
Although the demand is variable, blood and platelets are always needed. Red blood cells last for 42 days, and blood platelets can be stored for five days.
Miller-Keystone is particularly interested in Rh-negative and group O blood types. More than 20 hospitals are served by the center in five networks, including LVHN or St. Luke’s.
Miller-Keystone is marking its 50th anniversary. It has 11 donation centers throughout the region, including at 740 Hamilton St., Allentown. It also launched a community bloodmobile in August last year.
Kuttner stated that the Lehigh Valley Center and other blood centers in the country have dealt with staffing problems, much like businesses.
Kuttner stated that he believes Miller-Keystone has made a significant improvement in staffing but is still hiring. Giveapint.org has a list of available jobs.
The American Red Cross announced that it would test all blood, plasma, and platelet donations for COVID-19 antibody testing. This convalescent plasma can be used for COVID-19 patients with weakened immune systems.
The Red Cross tested donors for COVID-19 antibodies before the pandemic. However, it stopped testing when more cases became available, and new treatments were developed.
New clinical trial data suggest that convalescent plasma may benefit immunocompromised patients. The Red Cross has therefore reopened the testing for a short time.
Miller-Keystone considered buying the products, but the demand is so low here that it’s not comparable to larger cities where Red Cross supplies blood, Kuttner stated.
Miller-Keystone might receive a request for convalescent plasma up to 2 units per week instead of the 1,000 blood products it supplies each week.
Kuttner stated that it is more efficient for the center than outsourcing the product. He also noted that the center could obtain the product on time.