Winter clinic closures leads to blood shortage in Atlantic Canada
Halifax – Canadian Blood Services is facing a shortage of blood in Atlantic Canada after it had to cancel a record number of clinics this winter.
Peter MacDonald, Director of Donor Relations, told Global News that Canadian Blood Services was forced to cancel 60 clinics this winter, which means they collected 2,300 fewer units of blood than planned.
MacDonald said March Break was particularly bad for them this year.
“March Break is usually a time when our events are well-attended and we have good support from the community,” he said. “But that week was actually our hardest hit week of the year, where we had clinics cancelled for two full days right across the Maritimes.”
There were 23 clinic days cancelled in New Brunswick, 27 clinic days cancelled in Nova Scotia and PEI, while Newfoundland had 10 clinic days cancelled.
MacDonald said the cancelled appointments are also causing more problems now because they usually re-book clients every 56 days. MacDonald said because people weren’t coming in in March, they now have empty appointments until the middle of May.
MacDonald said their last choice is to cancel a clinic, but had no choice with so many storms where the RCMP and local police were warning people to stay off the roads.
“What a lot of people don’t realize is blood is perishable,” MacDonald said. “Red cells last for 42 days. We can freeze plasma and it will last for up to a year, but platelets only last for five days, and platelets are a key component in cancer treatments, so hospital demand is always there.”
MacDonald said the region has been able to manage by importing blood from reserves in the national blood blank, but they prefer to be self-sufficient, so they’re not at the mercy of issues that may occur in other parts of the country.
“You know who would have predicted that Calgary would have had all that flooding a couple of years ago,” he said, adding that in the winter there is also the problem of logistics.
“The storms that closed our clinics also impact the airports and whether or not the blood will get in from Toronto, for example.”
At a blood donor clinic in Lower Sackville, David Waugh told Global News he last donated several decades ago, but was inspired to to it again after hearing a story about a friend of a friend.
“He mentioned that his friend has a blood condition where he has to go and have a transfusion every couple of weeks,” Waugh said of the conversation with his friend. “[The friend] is around my age and I thought ok I’ve been thinking about this for a while, so I’ll get off my butt and go give blood.”
Kara Baisley told Global News that she is a regular blood donor and tries to give it two or three times a year.
“I like to help people,” she said. “This is an easy way of doing it, I guess. [I] just come and sit here a while and help some people down the road.”
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