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Canadian Blood Services faces uphill battle to attract B.C. donors

Canadian Blood Services has seen a dramatic decrease in donations in the wake of the COVID pandemic.
Image Credit: SUBMITTED/Canadian Blood Services

Canadian Blood Services has seen a steady decline in collections of blood, plasma and platelets since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic and things got even worse this summer.

The agency has lost 31,000 blood donors nationwide since the start of the pandemic.

“Currently we are able to meet the demands of patients in need but our collections are low and the need for blood is ongoing,” director of donor relations for the B.C. and Yukon regions Gayle Voyer said.

The summer season is typically a challenging time to get donations but in the wake of the pandemic, supplies are stretched even more than usual, she said.

It's a trend Voyer said blood services is seeing across the country and fixing the problem is going to take time. People are encouraged to make donations now and book appointments in the weeks and months to come. 

“This is the first summer since 2019 where people have fewer restrictions,” she said. “More people are out doing things they haven’t been able to do and travelling. During the pandemic, some were not comfortable doing it even though we had protocols in place. We had a small amount supporting the blood system and we are grateful for those.”

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There is a need for blood as well as the blood products, plasma and platelets.

“In the Kamloops area we only collect whole blood,” Voyer said. “In Kelowna and other communities across the province we have plasma donation centres. We have a platelet donation centre in the Lower Mainland.”

Hospital patients need different components of blood for a variety of different treatments. Voyer said donating blood is an important thing to do for the community.

“There are patients in need and in my role I hear stories of the benefits of family members receiving blood or blood products and how grateful they are,” she said. “It is the gracious donors who come in and volunteer their time to help others in need.

"When you hear these stories it really resonates that you're doing a great thing to help people.”

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The national blood system is able to share products across country with the exception of Quebec that has its own blood donation system.

When asked what first time donors can expect, Voyer said the process is designed to be supportive and comfortable.

“Donors can check out the website and take an eligibility quiz,” she said. “If they have questions they can phone 1-888-TO-DONATE to really prepare. They should be well hydrated the day before and the day of the appointment and eat something about an hour before.

“Bring photo identification and we will walk them through every step. At the end donors can have juice and snacks, and chat with the volunteers.”

For more information or to book an appointment to donate near you go here.

To contact a reporter for this story, email Shannon Ainslie or call 250-819-6089 or email the editor. You can also submit photos, videos or news tips to the newsroom and be entered to win a monthly prize draw.

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