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Maui’s blood supply ‘well stocked’ even with no local drives

Blood donations have dropped dramatically since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic with nearly all blood drives temporarily halted on the Neighbor Islands, but the Blood Bank of Hawaii offered reassurance that the supply to Maui Memorial Medical Center “continues uninterrupted.”

With headquarters in Honolulu, the blood bank supplies all 18 hospitals across the state and requires about 150 to 200 volunteer-based donations a day to maintain an adequate supply. Currently, the blood bank has about a three-day supply for most blood types and “all blood types are needed,” said Chief Operating Officer Todd Lewis on Friday.

“Although we are unable to physically be there these past few months, we want to assure the community that we have remained in close contact with all our hospital partners and have remained committed to provide blood products to all Neighbor Island hospitals, including Maui Memorial Medical Center,” Lewis said. “Our level of service has remained the same through COVID-19 and continues uninterrupted.”

Still, with only five locations on Oahu where donors supply blood for the whole state, blood donations have “really decreased these past few months compared to last year at the same time.” The blood bank stopped Neighbor Island blood drives in March due to the pandemic.

At Maui Memorial Medical Center, hospital officials said Friday that it is “pretty well stocked” with blood.

“With the advent of COVID-19, we are scheduling fewer elective surgeries and have experienced less traumatic injuries with the reduction in visitors to the island,” said Dr. Barry Shitamoto, pathologist at Clinical Labs Hawaii at Maui Memorial.

Shitamoto said that between 250 to 300 units of blood products of varying blood types, with weekly blood bank exchanges, is the typical requirement to maintain adequate supply levels at the hospital. Normally, around 10 units of blood are used daily.

“We adjust our blood supply depending on needs, which could include surgery, trauma and many other factors,” he said. “Blood supplies are continually evaluated, and BBH has done an outstanding job in providing us with supplies we need. We are grateful for their years of consistent service and support.”

The Blood Bank of Hawaii also has been organizing the availability of convalescent plasma for COVID-19 patients throughout the state, Shitamoto said.

Convalescent plasma is the liquid part of blood collected from patients who have recovered from COVID-19 and may have developed antibodies in their blood against the virus, according to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

In 2019, the Blood Bank of Hawaii hosted six blood drives on Maui with each drive lasting five days. On average, officials performed 85 blood draws per day. A total of 1,293 Maui residents donated at least once during that year.

“Although we were saddened to cancel these drives, we felt like it was the right thing to do to protect our community,” Lewis said.

While all blood types are needed, the most urgent demand is for types O positive and O negative, he said.

“Simply put, it’s a matter of life and death, or the potential to heal from illness, for very sick patients,” he said of the importance of donations. “They need the blood that only our local donors can give. It’s critical at this time for Oahu residents to come together as a community to help our whole state, because it’s difficult to import from the Mainland.”

While the resumption date of Maui blood drives was already uncertain, Gov. David Ige announced Thursday that a partial interisland travel quarantine will be implemented Tuesday through Aug. 31.

“We are currently exploring ways in which we can safely return to the Neighbor Islands, but with the recent surge in Oahu cases and the interisland quarantine, that plan may be further delayed,” Lewis said.

Select locations on Oahu are taking call-ahead appointments only. Donors must be healthy, at least 16 years of age, weigh at least 110 pounds and have a photo ID with a birthdate. Additionally, donors are prescreened and are asked to cancel and reschedule their appointment if they begin to develop any symptoms or feel sick. Walk-in appointments are currently suspended, but donors can call ahead.

Anyone who came into contact with someone who may have or had been diagnosed with COVID-19, or if they feel they have the virus, are urged not to donate blood.

“We appreciate all the support that we receive from some of these donors who have been contacting us during these last few months,” Lewis said. “Our staff has missed the time spent on Maui, and especially seeing our regular donors. We hope they are remaining safe and healthy during these times, and we look forward to seeing them when we return.”

For updates and more information, visit bloodbanktough.org or follow BBH on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram at @bloodbankhawaii.

* Dakota Grossman can be reached at dgrossman@mauinews.com.

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