Critical shortage of plasma to treat COVID-19 patients as hospitalizations climb


SARASOTA COUNTY (WFLA) – The number of people hospitalized for COVID-19 continues to climb across Sarasota and Manatee counties. Leaders at both Sarasota Memorial Hospital and Manatee Memorial Hospital tell 8 On Your Side they’re seeing record numbers.

As of Monday, Sarasota Memorial Hospital is treating 78 coronavirus patients. That’s up from 45 one week ago and just nine COVID-19 patients back in early June.

Coronavirus treatment options are limited for doctors. Dr. Kirk Voelker says there’s a desperate need of convalescent plasma, which has proven to be a great tool in the fight against the virus.

“It is one of our mainstay medications/treatments for COVID-19 and we are running critically short on it,” said Dr. Voelker.

Dr. Voelker tells 8 On Your Side doctors are being forced to start rationing the plasma.

“If you required oxygen or were short of breath, you would get the convalescent plasma. Right now, we are going to have to start looking at how sick are our patients, are they on higher amounts of oxygen, are they on the ventilator, are they deathly ill and we are going to have to start stratifying who gets it,” said Dr. Voelker. “We have not had to do so til this point, but if we don’t have the supply, then we have to ration,” he continued.

Suncoast Blood Centers provides plasma to ten area hospitals. Staff are begging for more donors to come to the centers as the demand for plasma continues to climb.

As of Monday, the center had a total of seven units of convalescent plasma. Each unit equals one treatment.

“It is devastating for us to have to tell a hospital or a patient that we don’t have what they need. We have never in our history have had to say that, but the fact of the matter is, the only source for this vital treatment is a human who has recovered from COVID-19 and is symptom-free,” said Director of Community Development Jayne Giroux.

Giroux explains how important the blood product has proven to be throughout the pandemic. “It can actually help those who are critically ill by calming down their system enough where their own body can help healing along with the medications they may be receiving. Doctors are also finding that it is very useful for people who are moderately ill. We can keep them from developing the symptoms that will put them in the ICU,” said Giroux.

Suncoast Blood Centers currently has fewer than 100 convalescent plasma donors, but with COVID-19 cases climbing every day, there is a growing pool of people who can help make a difference.

“Think about how you felt. I don’t know if you were hospitalized or sick at home, but what you have now in your body has the capacity to save somebody’s life, to save four lives,” said Giroux.

In order to donate at Suncoast Blood Centers, you must:

  • Be symptom-free for more than 14 days
  • Provide written documentation of a positive COVID-19 test result
  • Meet FDA donor eligibility guidelines
  • Call or email for an appointment

Suncoast Blood Centers are open from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday to Friday. To schedule an appointment, call 941-993-8119 or email

Copyright 2021 Nexstar Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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