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Canadian Blood Services calling for donors to replenish critically low supply

A blood donor clinic pictured at a shopping mall in Calgary, Alta., Friday, March 27, 2020. Canadian Blood Services says it is struggling to replenish a critically low national supply caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh

This week is national blood donor week and it comes at a time when Canadian Blood Services says it’s struggling to replenish its critically low supply.

The organization says the number of Canadians who donate blood regularly has dropped by 31,000 donors since the beginning of the pandemic.

“The need for blood is constant, it is something that is needed every day. If you’re a cancer patient, it can take five donors in a week to take care of a cancer patient and it can take up to 50 donors for an accident car accident victim,” said Lisa Beechinor, territorial manager with Canadian Blood Services in Saskatoon.

The organization is responsible for overseeing the inventory for blood and blood products that are regularly shifted across the country to meet hospital need.  On average about 400,000 to 425,000 Canadians donate blood regularly.

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But inventory has specific shelf life. Frozen plasma can last a year, red blood cells for 43 days and platelets for five days. So it takes work to make sure supply meets demand at all times.  National Blood Donor week is celebrated in the hope that new donors will be attracted to give blood but summer tends to be a slow time as people cancel appointments or go on vacations.

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“We have not been able to recruit donors in our regular manner through events. Also there has been isolation, there’s been illness, and there is a natural attrition that happens with donors with illnesses or changing eligibility,” Beechinor said.

The need for blood reduced dramatically as the pandemic brought most critical surgeries to a standstill and also put a pause on travel. At the same time physical distancing measures had to be taken at Canadian Blood Services so they could not accommodate as many donors as they usually would.

But as things begin to return to normal, demand is increasing to levels even higher than pre-pandemic as the health-care system tries to catch up. “In Saskatoon every month, we have 2,400 open appointments every month. This year alone, we need an additional 1,500 new donors by the end of the year. And in Canada, we need 100,000 new donors,” she said.

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Beechinor called on new donors to replenish the depleting supply.

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“The great thing about Canadians is when we ask for help, they show up. And that’s what we’re asking right now, is for donors to show up and donate blood. So if you’ve ever considered donating blood, now is the perfect time to book and keep an appointment. Tell your friends and family, make it top of mind.”

If you’re over 17 and in good health generally, she said, you will most likely be able to donate blood.

“The best thing to do is to go to blood donors here and check your eligibility. We ask that you drink lots of water beforehand and have a salty snack, and it takes roughly about an hour from start to finish.”

To book an appointment you can go to blood.ca or get the Give Blood app or call 1-888-236-6283.

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