Demand for blood rising but donating not getting any easier in Thompson-Okanagan | iNFOnews | Thompson-Okanagan's News Source

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Demand for blood rising but donating not getting any easier in Thompson-Okanagan

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While the demand for lifesaving blood and blood products continues to rise, Canadian Blood Services has seen a steady decline in donations since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“The need for blood is constant, people don’t realize blood has an expiry date, you can’t just stock up on it," Canadian Blood Services community development manager Niki Randall told

“It expires every 42 days. Only 2% of eligible Canadians are donating regularly, we need 100,000 more every year." 

Blood services has four brick and mortar locations in BC — one on Vancouver Island and three in the Lower Mainland — and relies on mobile blood donation clinics to collect blood from all other areas of the province. 

In 2021, the organization closed its blood donation clinic in Kelowna to make way for a new plasma centre at Orchard Park Shopping Centre the same year. Okanagan residents can donate plasma or sign up for several mobile blood donation clinics setting up on various dates throughout the valley.

“Both plasma and blood are incredibly important, both are needed,” Randall said. “The plasma is the yellowish portion of your blood and is used for immunoglobulin to make life saving medications. We’re only collecting a quarter of the country’s demand for plasma.”

It isn’t so easy to donate in Kamloops where the city acts as a hub for several smaller, outlying communities. One such community is Clearwater, located more than an hour’s drive north of Kamloops. It can be difficult for residents to line up schedules with the mobile clinics that come to Kamloops at various locations roughly once per month.

“There definitely is a desire to donate in Clearwater,” Thompson Nicola regional district area A director Usoff Tsao said. “Many have told me they would donate if there was a regular visit to Clearwater with a mobile clinic.

“There are many people everywhere who want to donate but even Kamloops doesn't have any regularity to their (blood) drives. All of which goes against the ad campaigns where they say they are short on blood units but at the same time not trying harder to make donation opportunities easier.”

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Usoff said in the past he has tried to get Clearwater residents to carpool together with him to Kamloops to donate blood sot they can share the cost.

“I was under the impression at that point that there was a steady schedule for donation in Kamloops but then found out there isn’t, and you can't even request an appointment but just wait for their announcement that there is one. That makes it almost impossible to line up with people around five people's schedules.”

In January, Usoff exchanged letters with the Canadian Blood Services, requesting a mobile blood donation unit to come to Clearwater for a blood drive.

The letter back from the organization cited high costs of operating a mobile donation clinic, where many factors have to be taken into consideration when choosing mobile clinic locations. Ultimately, they’re not able to accommodate every community.

“If cost is a matter, then Kamloops as a hub for everyone from the North Thompson to the Chase side of Shuswap makes sense.”

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Kamloops resident Carol Gillis said having a full-time blood donation facility in the city would allow her to donate more regularly. 

"It’s tough because the hours and days of the week are limited," she said. "If I can’t book an after work appointment... I generally can’t donate. And if I have to cancel, then I’m out for another several weeks." 

When asked whether brick-and-mortar locations for Kamloops or cities in the Okanagan is a possibility in the future, Randall said she didn’t know.

“We’re always evaluating our plan on a national basis,” she said.

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Canadian Blood Services is a non-profit organization and Canada’s blood authority in all provinces and territories except for Quebec.

The pandemic pushed health-care systems to capacity, creating economic challenges along with staff and resource shortages. Higher interest rates, inflation and the high cost of living are impacting government budgets, according to the organization's 2024 Strategic Plan.

The population is increasing and aging with more immigrants arriving so the need for more diversity and inclusivity among donors is increasing.

“Our population in Canada is very diverse and we need that representation in our donor base,” Randall said. “There are times when individuals will have a better opportunity to match with blood types in their communities.”

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According to the strategic plan, donor behaviour is changing and fewer people are donating. 

“The donor behaviour has changed since the pandemic, consumer behaviour has changed and people aren't giving as generously,” Randall said. “Every sixty seconds someone in Canada needs blood. Things can change quickly and all of a sudden someone you love needs blood. A recent survey said over 81 percent of individuals recognize blood is needed but are waiting for someone to ask them.”

Go here to find where the next mobile blood donation clinics will be available in Kamloops and the Okanagan.

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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