BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB) — ConnectLife is asking Western New Yorkers to roll up their sleeves as local hospitals are experiencing a critical shortage of O-negative blood.

O-negative blood is considered the universal donor type and is the only type that can be used for patients whose blood type is unknown.

“Hospitals need O-negative because in a situation where minutes matter, they can’t take the time to blood type somebody and wait to see what it is to make sure they don’t get a reaction,” Zachary Kineke, blood donor communications supervisor for ConnectLife told News 4 in a live interview.

Kineke said that ConnectLife, which supplies 70% of blood used by hospitals in the region, is down to its backup emergency supply of O-negative blood. In a news release, ConnectLife said as of Friday Buffalo General Hospital had only 12 units of the blood type; it typically aims to keep 39 units in stock.

Kineke said the shortage is driven in part by the start of flu season and the recent increase in illnesses including COVID-19.

“When we have these school drives especially — which we rely on for a lot of blood — we’re losing a lot of appointments to people who have to cancel because they’re out sick.

ConnectLife is asking community members to visit its website or call 716-529-4270 to make an appointment.

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Justin McMullen is a Western New York native who joined the News 4 team in 2023. You can read more of his work here.