How our Blood Transfusion Laboratory Prepares for the Unexpected

Recently, the Blood Transfusion team in the Laboratory Medicine Program (LMP) at UHN, along with our blood transfusion partners at Lakeridge Health, Sunnybrook and hospitals all across Ontario participated in a “mock blood shortage” exercise.

The exercise helped our team practice what would happen during a real and severe blood shortage — the reason for the shortage during this particular exercise, as provided by the Canadian Blood Services, was a major storm with the resulting closure of the city’s airport and highways. 11

In the event of a blood shortage, major surgeries are reviewed to see if the surgery will need blood and if so, the surgery is delayed until it is safe to proceed. In addition, transfusion orders for all inpatients and outpatients are carefully scrutinized to identify who can have their transfusion safely deferred and who might benefit from a transfusion-sparing alternative.

“Blood shortages have the potential to affect every patient in the hospital and, depending on where the shortage originated, every hospital in the province,” says Dr. Jacob Pendergrast, Blood Transfusion Specialist.

The Blood Transfusion Laboratory at UHN is partnered with blood banks throughout the GTA, including Sunnybrook and Lakeridge Health; and the team is also responsible for overseeing the blood transfusion laboratories in hospitals throughout Northern Ontario, including Sault Ste Marie, the Timmins region, and even as far north as Weeneebayko Area Health Authority in James Bay.

“During the mock blood shortage exercise, we worked with our partner hospitals to monitor blood product levels at all the sites,” explained Dr. Lani Lieberman, Blood Transfusion Specialist. “We had to make sure that all our patients, whether or not they were within the ‘walls’ of UHN, would be taken care of.”

23They also call together the Emergency Blood Management Committee (EBMC) which consists of senior leaders and medical directors from across the organization who will make decisions around patient care if inventories reach a critical level.

“The team did an absolutely phenomenal job during the exercise,” says. Dr. Sylvia Asa, Medical Director, LMP. “They were organized, well prepared and confident in their plans – which they executed flawlessly. The team really demonstrated their commitment to patient care.”

“The blood transfusion team is always focused on delivering and managing quality blood products,” said Sally Balmer, Manager, Blood Transfusion. “The blood shortage exercise is just another example of how hard they work for our patients.”

“Every day our staff delivers exceptional patient care, “says Brad Davis, Executive Director, LMP. “I congratulate the entire blood transfusion team for their hard work during the “mock” crisis – but also for all the work they do day to day in our laboratory. Great stuff!”


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