The choice of topic for this “Our Space” was without question. The storm’s impact across the Gulf Coast has been heart-wrenching. The rain has stopped and flood waters are receding, but we don’t yet know what the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey will fully be.
The immediate response—augmenting the supply of blood to Gulf Coast Regional Blood Center and Coastal Bend Blood Center from unaffected centers has been a resounding success. The AABB Interorganizational Task Force on Domestic Disasters and Acts of Terrorism has done a tremendous job standing up this immediate response. Blood, logistics and humanitarian support from community independents in 20 or more states has been outstanding.
The silver lining? Almost miraculously, Gulf Coast and Coastal Bend have resumed a large portion of their operations and donors have returned to their centers and mobile sites to “Give Blood.” It is a tribute to the goodness and strength of the human spirit alive and well in blood centers and our donors.
Given the scope of the flooding, we must evaluate and plan to continue to augment and support the blood centers in the region, allowing them to assure their hospitals an adequate supply in the weeks and months ahead. Whatever support may be needed, I am certain we will do so.
Beyond the moment however, a more complete solution is required to insure the sustainability of blood operations and reinforce our ability to respond to regional and national crises in the future. Declining utilization, marginal pricing, a declining donor base and strained financials led to concerns about the sustainability of the U.S. blood supply. Calendar year 2016 presented a series of at least four events that stressed supply. This last week we faced these issues in the fourth largest city, and home to the largest concentration of tertiary care hospitals in the U.S. I would fear to predict what might be next and when it might come.
Fortunately, few things are unsolvable. Blood centers are led by and filled with smart, dedicated, mission driven, resourceful people, as we have just seen. I believe we have the support of the Department of Health and Human Services, the Blood, Organ, and Tissue Senior Executive Council, and the Advisory Committee on Blood and Tissue Safety and Availability Subcommittee on sustainability and others. But we must bring our experience and resources together to more completely address the sustainability issues our blood supply increasingly faces.
Finally, to all who have provided support and particularly those on the front lines through the storm, your efforts demonstrate the power of action in the interest of the common good. Thank you.
Martin Grable; Board President