Empty beds strain blood inventory

MAY 17, 2022 (OTTAWA) – Canadian Blood Services is feeling the strain to collect blood, platelets, and plasma following an increase in appointment cancellations and low attendance at donor centres across Canada.

Empty donor beds, combined with the constant need for blood, have put added pressure on Canada’s Lifeline. The national blood inventory has declined by 25 per cent since the start of April and the agency has issued an immediate call for new and returning donors to help replenish the blood supply to meet patient needs.

The low reserve of blood can be replenished before patients are affected, but only if people across Canada of all blood types donate over the coming weeks.

“Donor attendance had remained strong during past waves of COVID-19, but we have seen a notable shift since mid-March. We have experienced a 10 per cent increase in late cancellations and missed appointments influenced by recent illness, isolation requirements and the lifting of restrictions, and a seven per cent rise in deferrals related in part to increased travel,” says Rick Prinzen, Canadian Blood Services’ chief supply chain officer and vice-president of donor relations.

Donating during the pandemic is both safe and welcoming. Infection-control measures continue to be in place to protect donors, staff, and volunteers. This includes measures such as a wellness screening, mandatory masks and physical distancing measures, and a fully vaccinated workplace.

“We are grateful to donors for their support, but at the beginning of the pandemic we said the effort to ensure there’s enough blood to meet patient needs would be continuous like a marathon, not a sprint. We are now in a precarious situation as we emerge from the sixth wave of COVID-19. Given the uncertainty of future variants and what living with COVID-19 is going to look like, along with the increased need for donors over the summer months that are typically a challenging time for blood and plasma collections, patients rely on new and returning donors to show up and help us this week, next month and for months to come. Lives depend on it.”

All donors are needed. The national blood inventory continues to meet patients’ needs but an increase in donations before Canada Day will ensure there is enough of each blood type on hand for patients across Canada.

“Due to its short shelf life, the need for platelets to treat patients with serious blood disorders or those undergoing cancer treatments is pressing and ongoing. And we also need more donors to grow Canada’s plasma supply for patients, including those who need immunoglobulins,” says Mr. Prinzen.

Appointments to donate are required, but same day appointments are available every day at many donor centres and community events across the country. Donors who are unable to make it to their appointment are urged to cancel it and re-book into the following month. This will assist efforts to find someone else to take their place.

One in two people in Canada are eligible to donate blood, plasma, and platelets, but only one in 81 does. A small group of regular donors is meeting the needs of the entire country, which is unsustainable. 

“If you’ve never donated before, and are well, eligible to donate, and able to leave home, please book and honour your appointment to help patients. With thousands of open spots to fill before, during and after the May long weekend, there are plenty of opportunities for folks to show up and help.”

Canadian Blood Services is rallying for the support of donors before National Blood Donor Week, June 12 to 18. Lighting events at national and regional landmarks, digital content connecting donors to their impact on Canada’s Lifeline, and themed in-donor centre experiences will help shine a light on the need for new donors and inspire people to help make our blood system strong. 

To book an appointment to donate and join Canada’s Lifeline, download the GiveBlood app, call 1 888 2 DONATE (1-888-236-6283) or book now at blood.ca.


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