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Manitoba facing shortage as blood donations drop

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Mindy McKenzie gives blood at a 2011 Red Cross Blood Donor Clinic set up at the Convention Centre.

PHOTO BY RUTH BONNEVILLE/WINNIPEG FREE PRESS ARCHIVES Enlarge Image

Mindy McKenzie gives blood at a 2011 Red Cross Blood Donor Clinic set up at the Convention Centre. Photo Store Photo Store

Manitoba is facing a shortage of blood donations that could cause hospitals to delay surgeries, Canadian Blood Services in Winnipeg says.

In Manitoba, there are 5,500 donation appointments sitting empty between now and Labour Day, according to CBS community development co-ordinator Jennifer Stewart Larsen.

That number is the goal for how many donors the organization hopes to see in its clinics in order to collect enough blood to serve the needs of hospitals across the province.

"We really do need people who have never thought about (giving blood) to give it a try now," Stewart Larsen said.

"Or, if you donate two times a year, we’d really like to see you make a third donation. It would really count right now."

CBS bases the amount of blood it needs to collect each year off demand from the previous year, Stewart Larsen said. If it can’t meet that demand, hospitals could be forced to delay "optimal" surgeries until doctors are certain enough blood is available, she noted.

Blood would instead be held for emergency situations, or for those who rely on blood on a regular basis, like cancer or dialysis patients, or those with certain blood conditions, she said.

"It can be a tricky game for us to decide what to do with the blood we do have," Stewart Larsen said.

On Aug. 7, the national agency told the Canadian Press it had begun drawing on its reserve supplies and needed more than 50,000 donations across the country to keep its inventory at an acceptable level. It said it was extending clinic hours and adding special clinics until Sept. 3 as part of its national Blood Signal rally.

CBS usually sees a drop in donations during the summer, however, donations have been on the decline in Manitoba since January, Stewart Larsen said.

That’s a mix of people not being able to donate because of recent travels and because the agency has seen an increase in the number of donors who don’t have high enough levels of iron in their blood to donate, she said.

That means the agency is playing a game of catch-up as it heads into the fall.

"If we collect fewer units for half of the year, in order to make sure the next half of the year has the same inventory levels, we need our donor base to step up a notch," she said.

One blood donation can save up to three lives, according to organization.

CBS operates a permanent clinic and laboratory on William Avenue near the Health Sciences Centre along with a satellite site in Brandon. It also sends mobile teams out of each city up into the Interlake, Dauphin and Neepawa, and across southern Manitoba.

A team will be in Gimli on Fri., Aug. 16, Stewart Larsen said.

"We try to go where the people are," she said.

For more, visit www.blood.ca or call 1-888-2DONATE.

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