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H1N1 pandemic may reduce Canadian blood supplies

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  • H1N1 pandemic may reduce Canadian blood supplies

    H1N1 pandemic may reduce Canadian blood supplies


    By Meagan Fitzpatrick, Canwest News ServiceNovember 13, 2009

    Canadian Blood Services is bracing for a possible drop in blood donors as the flu season wears on. In this Nov. 7, 2009 photo Bharti Sarin gave blood for the first time in Canada as Calgary's Sikh community donated blood in memory of fellow Sikhs who lost their lives in a 1984 massacre. The clinic in northeast Calgary at the Castleridge Community Centre, was held on Saturday, November 7, 2009.

    Canadian Blood Services is bracing for a possible drop in blood donors as the flu season wears on. In this Nov. 7, 2009 photo Bharti Sarin gave blood for the first time in Canada as Calgary's Sikh community donated blood in memory of fellow Sikhs who lost their lives in a 1984 massacre. The clinic in northeast Calgary at the Castleridge Community Centre, was held on Saturday, November 7, 2009.
    Photograph by: Lorraine Hjalte, Calgary Herald

    OTTAWA Canada's blood donation system has taken a minor hit so far because of the H1N1 pandemic but Canadian Blood Services is bracing for a deeper impact as the flu season wears on and the number of donors could drop.

    Ron Vezina, national director of media relations for Canadian Blood Services, says the agency is still meeting demand from hospitals for blood and there is no cause for great concern at this point. The agency however, is trying to build its inventory to mitigate the threat posed to it by high donor, volunteer and staff absenteeism in the coming weeks.

    "From our point of view, it's (an issue) of supply. That's why we want to ramp up before great numbers of people start getting sick," he said in an interview.

    While Vezina said CBS is "still in good shape," there has been "an operational impact."

    The charitable organization that manages the country's blood supply system is made up 4,000 staff and relies on 17,000 volunteers to operate 19,000 mobile donor clinics every year and the 41 permanent collection sites.

    That's a substantial workforce and like any employer, Canadian Blood Services has had to prepare for volunteer and staff absenteeism. The work CBS is engaged in however, is a life-and-death matter and it acknowledges that absenteeism could affect its ability to collect, test, process and distribute blood.

    Some mobile clinics at schools, community centres, office buildings and at other public places were bumped in recent weeks because the facilities were needed for H1N1 vaccination clinics. Staff scrambled to find other locations if they could and urged donors who had booked appointments to come to the new location.

    "We've seen some clinics that have underperformed," Vezina added, and they've seen an increased number of cancelled appointments over the last six weeks. The CBS estimates that about 700 appointments per week have been cancelled or the donor didn't show up. While the agency doesn't track whether people miss appointments because they were sick, that is the reason often cited by workers at the local level who take the calls.

    Vezina said while thousands of units of blood haven't been lost because of the flu pandemic, the agency is anticipating a drop in donations and is working hard to ward off that threat.

    "The holiday season is also coming up and that's always a challenging time," he said.

    People are busy and travelling and are less likely to stick to their routine of regular donation, he said.

    The agency's national supply usually includes four to six days' worth of blood and it's currently at five days. CBS wants to increase to seven days' worth in order to prepare for the unknown donation levels in the coming weeks.

    There is no risk of getting the flu from giving or receiving blood, but people who want to donate should feel well on the day they donate and are asked to stay home if they do not. The blood collection agency has a donor self-check tool on its website.
    Copyright (c) Canwest News Service

    http://www.montrealgazette.com/healt...868/story.html
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