A blood donor clinic pictured at a shopping mall in Calgary, Friday, March 27, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh

A blood donor clinic pictured at a shopping mall in Calgary, Friday, March 27, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh

‘Supplies are tight’: Canadian Blood Services concerned about current inventory

Campaign launched in June to address its smallest donor base in a decade

Canadian Blood Services says it’s been successful in attracting new donors, but a slew of unfilled or cancelled appointments over the past few months has left the blood supply lower than it would like.

The organization set an ambitious goal in June of attracting 100,000 new donors to address its smallest donor base in a decade.

There were 31,000 fewer donors than before the COVID-19 pandemic, meaning more pressure on a smaller number of people willing to roll up their sleeves.

“We’ve certainly seen the donor base in the last several quarters slowly inch up again. I think about 80 per cent of that target has been met,” said Canadian Blood Services CEO Dr. Graham Sher.

“The facts are we have been able to meet patient needs consistently. We’ve delivered all the product to hospitals … but we’re going to the well too many times (with) the same donors.”

The service oversees the inventory from which blood and blood products are regularly shifted around the country to meet hospital and patient needs.

Between 400,000 and 425,000 Canadians give blood on a regular basis.

But inventory has a shelf life — a year for frozen plasma, 42 days for red blood cells and five days for platelets — so it takes some work to ensure supply continues to meet demand.

“Supplies are tight. We like to have 21,000 to 25,000 units of blood in inventory on any given day, because that gives us the agility and elasticity to meet the needs right across the country,” Sher said.

“We’re operating with an inventory of 15,000 to 16,000 units rather than the 21,000. That is why we’re saying we need to build the donor base and increase the collections.”

Canadian Blood Services has 25,000 empty appointments to fill before the end of the busy Christmas and New Year periods. It is also dealing with a large number of cancellations or people simply not showing up due to a combination of colds, flu and COVID-19 illnesses.

“Winter cold and flu season is upon us, our cancellation rates have jumped significantly and we’re heading into the toughest weeks to collect blood and blood products,” said Rick Prinzen, the chief supply chain officer and vice-president of donor relations for Canadian Blood Services.

“Winter storms could further impact collections.”

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