Manitobans urged to continue donating blood, to help make up COVID-19-related shortfall

By | March 17, 2020

Healthy Manitobans are being urged to continue donating blood, as national inventories are taking a hit related to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Canadian Blood Services staff say individuals and groups have started cancelling appointments in the wake of new protocols around social distancing. 

Still, they are asking anyone who feels comfortable and healthy to donate.

“The need for blood is ongoing. The need never ends,” said Dr. Debra Lane, medical officer of Canadian Blood Services in Winnipeg.

Lane said the national blood inventory is seeing a “slight reduction” in the O-negative and B-negative blood supplies.

Those who are unwell and self-isolating due to international travel or possible exposure could be contributing to the drop, she said.

Peter MacDonald, director of donor relations for Canadian Blood Services in Atlantic Canada, said Monday donor clinics started noticing appointment cancellations, for both individuals and groups, late last week when the announcement was made in Ontario that schools would be closed for two extra weeks after March Break. Visits dropped more when schools were closed in New Brunswick and Nova Scotia.

Some smaller donation clinics in Manitoba have been temporarily shut down.

Staff at open centres are doing routine screening for people who have travelled. Anyone who has been outside North America or continental Europe in the past 21 days is not eligible to give blood. That’s not a COVID-19-related requirement, it’s regular protocol.

Blood donations last for 56 days, Lane said. Large quantities of blood are needed for patients affected by car accidents, heart surgeries, cancer therapy, women giving birth and newborn babies. “These are the things we can’t predict,” she said.

But Lane is worried donors are feeling discouraged.

At this time, there is no critical shortage based on the local and national inventories. “We’re lucky our inventory is quite good here in Manitoba, and our national inventory is strong,” she said.

Low supply impacts critical procedures

The chief nursing officer for Manitoba Shared Health echoed Lane.

“I wouldn’t say a blood crisis at this point, but a blood shortage,” Lanette Siragusa said. “If that continues, we will have to look at cancelling other elective surgeries. But I want to reassure everyone that urgent and lifesaving procedures will continue.”

Public health officials in the province recently approved postponing surgeries if the surgeon has determined that the procedure can be safely delayed for at least three months without significant effects on the individual’s health.

Those impacted will include patients who are over the age of 70 who have significant underlying health problems or have compromised immune systems, Lane said.

Chief provincial public health officer Dr. Brent Roussin shared his colleagues’ concerns about the recent jump in cancellations, particularly in light of blood shortages.

“Donating blood in Canada continues to be safe, and I would like to encourage all Manitobans who are healthy — healthy and able — to do so,” he said.

“The need for blood is constant. It does not go away in a pandemic.”

The main blood donation centre is located at 777 William Ave., across from Winnipeg’s Health Sciences Centre. Visit or call 1-888-2-DONATE to book an appointment at the closest clinic.

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