Coronavirus: NZ Blood preparing for shortages as Omicron outbreak bites

The Omicron outbreak is beginning to hit the country's bloodstock levels.

As Kiwis pull out of their appointments, the New Zealand Blood Service is preparing for shortages and is urging people to donate. 

Aucklander Marta Mitchell is no stranger to rolling up her sleeve. 

"I know that there is a need for it," Mitchell told Newshub. 

She's been donating blood for over 12 years. As a nurse, she knows just how crucial it is to provide it.

"My background being the haematology bone marrow transplant ward, I've seen the usage first hand as a medical professional. We might have to give several bags of blood product in one sitting to a patient." 

Less than four percent of eligible Kiwis currently donate blood. Just one blood donation can help save the lives of up to three people.

Lives like Laurinda Howarths.

In 2017 she was diagnosed with Hodgkin's lymphoma and underwent six months of chemotherapy.

"With a blood cancer, in the chemo, they want to kill off the white cells and unfortunately that takes effect on all of the body," Howarths told Newshub. 

She was later told she was cancer-free. But in 2019, she was diagnosed again - this time, with Non-Hodgkin's lymphoma.

Accessing blood and plasma was her lifeline.

"If there was not the blood product to support me and help me to get through that - plain and simple, I wouldn't be here. To be a mum, to be a sister, to be a daughter," she says. 

But that life-saving product is beginning to wear thin.

As Omicron takes hold, more and more people are pulling out of their appointments.

The New Zealand Blood Service says it needs to boost its stock levels. 

"It is concerning for us that we are seeing more cancellations right now, particularly because we've got about 12,000 appointments in March alone to fill," NZBS National Marketing & Communications Manager Asuka Burge told Newshub. 

"Blood donors are vital to our health system. Without donors, there would be no blood on the shelves for patients when they need it." 

Every day, 83 Kiwis need blood or plasma.

Every week, NZBS needs to collect over 4000 blood and plasma donations to meet demand. As it prepares for shortages, it's asking people to donate.

"Blood only lasts 35 days, that's why we need a constant supply of it," Burge says. 

"We're really needing more people to book [and] check if they're eligible. First-timers or if it has been a few years, please come back and donate so that we can make sure we've got the blood there."

Howarths is backing the call. 

"It's made a huge difference in my life and I'm eternally grateful. Gosh, if those people hadn't taken that time out of their day - I wouldn't be here."