Canadian Blood Services is hoping to appeal to the generous spirit of the holiday season as it faces a severe shortfall of blood products after several days of stormy weather across the country.
Severe wind, snow and icy conditions British Columbia and most of eastern Canada starting late last week, causing travel disruptions and road closures. Extreme cold across the Prairies had people hunkering down at home, and the region is now bracing for a messy mix of freezing rain and snow for the next several days.
Canadian Blood Services said between appointment cancellations and disruptions to planned collection clinics, about 1,500 blood and plasma donations did not happen — amounting to around 10 per cent of what was expected.
“Currently, we have three or four days on hand of several blood types,” said Rick Prinzen, the agency’s chief supply chain officer and vice-president of donor relations, in a press release.
“The ideal inventory of fresh blood products is between five and eight days.”
There is a critical need for platelets for patients undergoing cancer treatments, and universal O-negative blood donors are especially needed for newborns and emergencies.
As winter drags on, poor weather can keep people from appointments and lead to more vehicle crashes and other trauma events, the agency said, increasing the demand for blood.
Canadian Blood Services said it has lost around 31,000 regular donors since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic. Since October, the national blood supply has declined by over 35 per cent.
The donor base is now the smallest it has been in a decade, and while patients’ needs are being met, the agency warned, “this is not sustainable.”
“We can and will turn this around,” Prinzen said, calling for people to fill open donation appointments.
“Donating blood or plasma to ensure patient needs are met is another way we can give a part of ourselves to help others,” he said.
This story was produced with the financial assistance of the Meta and Canadian Press News Fellowship.
Cindy Tran, The Canadian Press