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Blood & Plasma Donors Urgently Needed After Winter Storms Caused Shortfalls: Canadian Blood Services

There is 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.    

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 ten per cent of our expected blood and plasma collections. Continuing threats of winter storms and illness may further impact collections as the national inventory of several blood types remains far below optimal.    

“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.     

“We’ve had to cancel many collection events since Dec. 20. 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. 

“The national blood inventory has declined by over 35 per cent since the start of October. 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 can and will turn this around and we need donors to fill all open appointments. We are extremely grateful to the donors that regularly donate and also respond to these immediate needs. 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.” 

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. 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. 

Critical need for platelets and O-negative blood  

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.  

Snowball effect of fewer regular donors    

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). 

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