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Weather disrupts Canadian Blood Services operations

Blood stays fresh for up to 5 days, platelets can last up to 7.

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 GROWING NATURAL FOOD IN URBAN SPACES

Tuesday December 27, 2022 | VICTORIA, BC

by Mary P Brooke | Island Social Trends


Due to disruptions by weather — on top of a generally diminished donor pool since the first years of the COVID-19 pandemic — there is a challenge to the supply of blood and plasma for health care patients across Canada this winter season.

The impact of extreme weather events (thought to be a consequence of climate change) seems to have surprised Canadian Blood Services (CBS) officials, who are now scrambling to maintain blood supply for hospitals and cancer clinics.

That’s even though CBS says this: “Winter is a challenging time for blood and plasma collections. Weather impacts and illness are inevitable, so it is important that supplies are replenished as soon as possible to ensure we are prepared if severe weather disrupts collections again.”

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Mobile blood donor clinic as set up at Church of the Advent in Colwood [file photo March 2018 – Mary P Brooke / West Shore Voice News]

“An immediate need for donors from all communities to book and keep appointments and help restore and grow the blood and plasma supply for patients this winter season,” it was stated in a CBS news release today, December 27.   

Snowfall, cold and ice:

“Heavy snowfall, extreme cold, and icy conditions in many parts of Canada over the last few days have led to a shortfall of about 1,500 or 10 per cent of our expected blood and plasma collections,” says Trish Smith, Specialist – Strategic Communications, CBS.

“Continuing threats of winter storms and illness may further impact collections as the national inventory of several blood types remains far below optimal,” Smith said in today’s news release.   

So far, there remains room for clarification as to whether the expected shortfall is already below winter holiday season norms.

Redistribution & donor access challenges:

“Weather conditions are presenting significant challenges to our re-distribution opportunities, making national inventory balance a challenge. We urge donors from all communities across Canada, who can safely get to a Canadian Blood Services donation centre, to book an appointment as soon as possible to help restore and grow the blood and plasma supply for patients,” says Rick Prinzen, Canadian Blood Services’ chief supply chain officer and vice-president of donor relations.     

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Canadian Blood Services mobile clinic truck at the Sooke Legion. [File Sept 24, 2018 – Mary P Brooke / West Shore Voice News]

“We’ve had to cancel many collection events since Dec 20,” says Prinzen. 

“In addition, donors will have had difficulty meeting their scheduled appointments. We anticipate disruptions to continue in the weeks ahead as winter weather events continue to grip the country. Patients across Canada need donors more than ever as we head into the new year. Poor weather can also create an increase in trauma events, increasing the demand for blood. Every donation counts. It could literally save a life.”

COVID and flu season:

“The national blood inventory has declined by over 35 per cent since the start of October,” says Prinzen. This could be due to the increasing incidence of respiratory season illness.

“We can and will turn this around and we need donors to fill all open appointments,” the CBS rep says.

Fresh supply always needed:

“Currently, we have three or four days on hand of several blood types. The ideal inventory of fresh blood products is between five and eight days. We are extremely grateful to the donors that regularly donate and also respond to these immediate needs,” says Prinzen.

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Donors asked to keep their appointments:

“We also strongly encourage new donors to join Canada’s lifeline. Ensuring that the national supply meets patients’ needs over the coming weeks is an imperative for all of us. We also ask that donors, to the extent possible and reasonable, keep their appointments this week and throughout January,” says Canadian Blood Services.

Patients are counting on donors to keep their appointments whenever possible or look for appointments that are open today. 

Canadian Blood Services is open normal hours this week, and into the new year.

Local clinics:

The next posted clinics so far in Greater Victoria include these (make appointments online):

  • SAANICH – Wed Dec 27, 2022 at Canadian Blood Services office, 3449 Saanich Rd
  • SOOKE – Mon Jan 9, 2023 at Journey Middle School, 6522 Throup Rd
  • COLWOOD – Mon Jan 16, 2023 at Colwood Church, 2250 Sooke Rd.
  • DUNCAN – Thurs Jan 19, 2023 at Cowichan Community Centre, 2687 James St
  • SHAWNIGAN LAKE – Mon Jan 23, 2023 at Shawnigan Lake Community Centre, 2804 Shawnigan Lake Rd
  • SIDNEY – Mon Jan 30, 2023 at Mary Winspear Centre, 2243 Beacon Ave
  • ESQUIMALT – Mon Feb 6, 2023 at CFB Esquimalt, 1575 Lyall St.
  • SAANICH – Mon Mar 6, 2023 at University of Victoria, 3800 Finnerty Rd

Critical need for platelets and O-negative blood:

CBS says that the need for platelets is “pressing and ongoing” for patients with serious bleeding or those undergoing cancer treatments. Platelets are a vital blood component with a shelf-life of only seven days. Regular blood donations are needed to ensure platelets are available.

O-negative blood donors are also especially needed because this blood type can be transfused to any patient. In times of emergency or for newborn patients, O-negative blood, the universal blood type, makes a lifesaving difference. 

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Reliance on small donor base is unsustainable:   

Blood supplies continue to be disrupted by a sharp decline in the number of regular donors, a drop of 31,000 since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. Patients’ needs are still being met by the smallest donor base in a decade, but this is not sustainable.

As donors in many areas contend with poor weather, it’s even more important for other new and returning donors to attend collection events and make a lifesaving difference for patients. 

“Following storms, we often hear stories of people across Canada offering to help others clear snow or providing blankets and clothing for those staying in shelters. Don’t forget that donating blood or plasma to ensure patient needs are met is another way we can give a part of ourselves to help others,” says Mr. Prinzen.  

Thousands more new plasma and blood donors are needed. Same day and open appointment slots are available at many donation events across the country. Book your appointment online at blood.ca, on the GiveBlood app, or by calling 1 888 2 DONATE (1-888-236-6283).

About Canadian Blood Services

Canadian Blood Services is a not-for-profit charitable organization. Regulated by Health Canada as a biologics manufacturer and primarily funded by the provincial and territorial ministries of health, Canadian Blood Services operates with a national scope, infrastructure and governance that make it unique within Canadian healthcare. In the domain of blood, plasma and stem cells, we provide services for patients on behalf of all provincial and territorial governments except Quebec.

The national transplant registry for interprovincial organ sharing and related programs reaches into all provinces and territories, as a biological lifeline for Canadians.

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===== ABOUT ISLAND SOCIAL TRENDS:

Island Social Trends is a professional news service that covers news of the west shore, south Vancouver Island, BC and national issues.

Island Social Trends launched entirely online at islandsocialtrends.ca in mid-2020, in the footsteps of its predecessor publications MapleLine Magazine (2008-2010), Sooke Voice News (2011-2013) and West Shore Voice News (2014-2020).

Editor and publisher: Mary P Brooke, B.Sc. | ARCHIVES: HEALTH | VANCOUVER ISLAND