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Blood products – a major lifeline through the pandemic

Canadian Blood Services wants to remind everyone that giving blood is still a way that they can help others through the pandemic. While there are additional health precautions and other protocols in place, the main clinic located at 8249 114 St. in Edmonton is still open for business.
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The Canadian Blood Services blood donor clinic is still open for business along 114 St. in Edmonton on Tuesday. CHRIS COLBOURNE/St. Albert Gazette

Canada's national blood supplier is reminding people that giving the gift of life is even more important during these historic times of international crisis. Canadian Blood Services has issued a public service message that not only is it still safe to give blood, it is also a critical resource for caring for a growing number of people requiring hospitalization.

The good news is many people have already stepped up and signed up to schedule their donations.

In a video posted on its website March 19, the organization’s CEO Dr. Graham Sher expressed his gratitude by saying, “I want to take this time to extend my deepest appreciation for the enormous response we’ve seen in recent days from blood donors who have booked appointments. In these challenging times, your commitment and your generosity to patients in need cannot be overstated.”

The unfortunate news is Canadian Blood Services is concerned about a recent spike in appointment cancellations in several cities. The COVID-19 pandemic has understandably forced many people to hold back on their usual public activities, but donating blood should be one of the few exceptions.

Blood donors should book and keep their appointments to prevent shortages.

“The need in the weeks ahead will continue to remain strong,” Sher added. “Think of this more as a marathon than a sprint.”

Jennifer Gretzan, associate director for donor relations in the Prairie region, repeated that sentiment and noted with relief that the public has responded to the call to donate once more.

"Since we put that call out to support early last week, we've seen a notable increase in blood donations. That has helped maintain our blood inventory in the short term, and we thank donors for their generosity," she said.

Patients depend on blood donations as they recover from various surgeries and cancer treatments, as well as after serious bodily traumas such as motor vehicle accidents. The need for blood, stem cells, plasma, and organ and tissue donations never goes away.

Right now, the national inventory of blood is strong but those recent cancellations are worrisome, especially as some countries affected by COVID-19 have reported blood shortages. According to the Canadian Blood Services website, the inventory for O- and B- blood is only at five days' supply each, whereas AB- blood is the highest at 15 days.

One of the factors that might be playing into those cancellations is the speculation that some have about the potential for exposure to the virus. Donating blood in Canada continues to be safe, explained Dr. Isra Levy, Canadian Blood Services’ vice-president of medical affairs and innovation, adding that the organization's cleaning and infection-control practices are indeed robust. All prospective donors are carefully screened for even very mild symptoms of the illness during both the time when they are booking their appointments and also upon when they actually arrive at the clinic.

“Our donor centres are islands of wellness within Canada’s health system,” Dr. Levy said. “They are not places where sick people gather."

The organization strictly adheres to all guidelines put forth by the Public Health Agency of Canada.

The main Edmonton clinic is open for business at 8249 114 St., just south of the University of Alberta Hospital.

The next mobile clinics scheduled to take place in this city will occur at the St. Albert Inn, 156 St. Albert Tr. on April 1, April 3, April 11, and April 29. Only those with appointments will be allowed in as drop-in donations are suspended. Gretzan added physical distancing measures will be upheld during these clinics, as they should be everywhere else.

More information on the agency’s pandemic response at blood.ca/covid19. To make an appointment to donate, people can download the GiveBlood app, call 1-888-2-DONATE (1-888-236-6283) or visit www.blood.ca. Walk-in appointments are also available at all locations.


Scott Hayes

About the Author: Scott Hayes

Scott Hayes joined the St. Albert Gazette in 2008. Scott writes about the arts, entertainment, movies, culture, community groups, and charities. He also writes general news, features, columns and profiles on people.
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