DECLINING donor numbers and a backlog of elective surgeries is behind a desperate call for blood donations in the Hunter.
The Australian Red Cross Lifeblood service has issued an immediate, national appeal for 22,000 extra people to donate blood or plasma in the next fortnight.
In the Hunter, the service is looking for 600 additional donations at its Maitland and Newcastle donor centres and mobile blood unit.
The service needs donations of all blood and plasma types, but in particular O-, A-, A+ and B- blood types were running critically low.
Lifeblood's Jemma Falkenmire told the Newcastle Herald demand for blood was up, but donations were down.
She said as hospitals tried to catch up on elective surgeries postponed during the height of the pandemic, more blood supplies were required.
"The pandemic has been fairly unprecedented for us here, as well as globally, with donor numbers down across the board," Ms Falkenmire said. "At the start of the pandemic last year we had a large appeal for donors, and we had a huge response to that.
"But now that hospitals are trying to catch up on elective surgeries, combined with a significant drop in donor numbers, means giving blood now is actually more important than ever."
She hoped people would become motivated to donate blood twice a year to help the service meet the ongoing demand.
Lifeblood had begun contacting existing donors in the Hunter to encourage them to make an appointment within the next two weeks.
"O- is the most critical blood type we need," Ms Falkenmire said. "It is used on rescue flights, and we have it on hand for maternity units - it is quite an important blood type."
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Lifeblood executive director Cath Stone said demand for blood was up 7 per cent compared to this time last year.
"We have around 10,000 fewer people donating now than we saw at the peak of the pandemic," Ms Stone said. "We need more donors to roll up their sleeves to ensure fridges are well stocked. We have 22,000 extra appointments to fill during the next two weeks.
"Even if you don't know what blood type you have, we still need you - we need all blood types every day.
"31,000 donations are needed every week across Australia to help patients in times of trauma, major surgery, cancer treatment, pregnancy and a host of other situations."
Ms Stone said as we continued to "ride the wave of changes" brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic, it was essential that blood and plasma donations continued.
New and existing donors are welcome. To book a blood or plasma donation visit lifeblood.com.au, call 13 14 95 or download the Donate Blood app.
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