There was a steady stream of people coming to donate blood at a Canadian Blood Services clinic in Elmira March 20, but that was something of an anomaly.
The agency reports its been seeing some appointments cancelled due to public concerns about the COVID-19 outbreak. In that vein, a number of venues such a municipal halls typically used for mobile clinics are no longer available due to closures prompted by the coronavirus.
The blood drive at Lions Hall last Friday bucked both those trends.
“This place has been closed, too, but they opened it up just for us. We appreciate that,” said Angela Genore, a registered nurse serving as one of the supervisors at the clinic.
She noted numbers were up compared to the regular monthly stop in Elmira. With a target of collecting 96 units of blood, the clinic was already halfway there an hour after opening its doors.
But that’s something of an exception, as most of the mobile clinics offered in the wide area served by the Ancaster office have been cancelled, a list that includes the regular Linwood site, Genore added.
The regional office has noticed an increase in the number of people showing up at the permanent collection sites in the region, including locations in Waterloo and Guelph.
“We’ve had excellent collections at all our permanent centres,” she said.
Nationally, however, Canadian Blood Services has raised concerns about a recent spike in appointment cancellations in several cities in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. The agency is urging all healthy eligible donors to book and keep appointments because the need is constant for blood, stem cells, plasma and organ and tissue donors.
“Patients depend on these lifesaving donations,” said Dr. Isra Levy, Canadian Blood Services’ vice-president of medical affairs and innovation, in a statement. “Every day they are needed for patients undergoing surgery and cancer treatment, as well as to save lives following traumas such as motor vehicle accidents.”
Canadian Blood Services operates a national blood inventory where products are regularly shifted around the country to meet hospital and patient needs. The organization notes its inventory is currently strong, but the recent increase in cancellations is worrying, particularly in light of the blood shortages already being reported in other countries affected by COVID-19.
“Donating blood in Canada continues to be safe. Our robust cleaning and infection-control practices protect all donors, staff and volunteers. All prospective donors are also carefully screened for any symptoms of illness, including very mild ones. This screening occurs during both appointment booking and upon arrival at the donor centre or event. Those with any symptoms are not allowed to donate blood and are instructed not to visit.
“Our donor centres are islands of wellness within Canada’s health system,” said Levy, a public health expert and a former medical officer of health for the city of Ottawa. “They are not places where sick people gather.”
At least week’s clinic in Elmira, those arriving at the door were being screened, asked about recent travel, the appearance of symptoms and contact with anyone appearing to be suffering from the cold or flu, for instance.
Inside, work areas and donor beds were spread out across the room to help with social-distancing measures. Organizers were also looking to keep the number of people in the facility, including the 22 staff members present, under the 50 set by Public Health guidelines.
For that reason, the agency is encouraging donors to make appointments, said Genore, noting walk-ins have been turned away in some cases in order to limit the number of people gathering at any one time
“We take people by appointment first,” she said.
More information on COVID-19 is available online. To make an appointment to donate, download the GiveBlood app, call 1 888 2 DONATE (1-888-236-6283) or book now online. Walk-in appointments are still available at all locations.