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Far-flung geography affects blood collection in Kootenays

Blood supply dwindling; donors must drive to Alberta or Okanagan
A Canadian Blood Services clinic in Calgary. (File photo: Jeff McIntosh/The Canadian Press)

Canadian Blood Services (CBS) recently put a call out to donors to book and keep appointments as it faces a decrease in collections.

CBS says supplies have been dwindling and that the issue has been exacerbated by the pandemic. Cranbrook residents have made it clear, going by social media comments, that they would donate more often if there was a local CBS location or blood-drive event.

Currently, the closest CBS locations to Cranbrook are in Lethbridge, Alberta or the Okanagan. That means driving three or more hours to donate blood.

This is the case for every community in the East and West Kootenay — there is no Kootenay-based CBS location.

“While there is strong community support for patients in many parts of B.C. and across Canada, we’re not able to accommodate all potential donors with our donor centre schedule and locations,” a spokesperson for CBS said in an emailed statement to the Townsman.

READ: Canadian Blood Services urging people to donate as it faces collection challenges

“It is difficult for us knowing that there are people in Cranbrook who may want to donate blood, but because of the distance to the nearest collection centre are unable to do so,” said Marcelo Dominguez, Regional PA specialist with CBS. “The good news is that individuals who meet the health requirements to donate blood can do so within B.C. or other locations across Canada. The next time potential blood donors in Cranbrook travel within Canada, our website is a helpful tool to help them find a donor centre nearby.”

When asked about bringing a pop-up or donation event to Cranbrook, Dominguez said there are many factors that contribute to their decisions when bringing a donation event to a community.

“Decisions around where we hold donation events are assessed on a national basis and based on many factors including the number of units collected, labour and transportation costs, the distance and access to the nearest production site and the need to operate an efficient blood system,” Dominguez said. “Ultimately, logistical challenges mean we must focus on collecting blood in more densely populated areas. Holding a donation event in a more remote location could impact our ability to ship the blood quickly to our manufacturing sites.”

Dominguez says that there are no impacts to how hospitals will receive blood and blood products.

“Patients in your community will continue to receive the blood and blood products they need at their local hospital when they need them,” Dominguez said.

Interior Health confirmed that patients who need blood or blood products in Cranbrook aren’t impacted by the fact that we don’t have a CBS collection site.

The East Kootenay Regional Hospital and Interior Health do not collect blood — it is all done through CBS.

As Canadian Press reported on August 8, CBS says the number of people who donate blood regularly decreased by 31,000 donors during the pandemic — the smallest donor base in a decade.

READ: Number of Canadian blood donors plummets to lowest point in a decade during COVID-19

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Corey Bullock

About the Author: Corey Bullock

Corey Bullock is a multimedia journalist and writer who grew up in Burlington, Ontario.
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