New Grande Prairie hospital won't bring back blood services

Grande Prairie will continue without a blood donation clinic, even as the population grows and a new regional hospital gets ready to open its doors in 2019.

Canadian Blood Services stopped running a mobile donation clinic to the city in 2011, citing high costs

Canadian Blood Services stopped running its mobile donation clinic to Grande Prairie in 2011. ( Joern Pollex/Getty Images)

The new regional hospital in Grande Prairie won't be enough to draw back Canadian Blood Services, which stopped running mobile donation clinics to the city more than six years ago.

"At this point, we're certainly not looking at ways to expand our service," Susan Matsumoto, CBS director of donor relations for the Prairie region, told CBC News on Wednesday.

Since the service shut down, there has been no place in the city of more than 63,000 for people to regularly donate blood.

CBS suspended resources to the city in 2011, citing the high cost of transporting blood to its processing site in Edmonton.

Blood needs to be processed within 24 hours of being drawn, Matsumoto said. Platelets extracted from the blood have a shelf life of approximately one week.

"We always try to make decisions to keep our business as lean and efficient as possible," she said. "Should we ever have a need to expand in a big way, or our production timelines change, we know that we have a big and willing community there ... but we're not at that point."

Grande Prairie's new regional hospital is expected to open in 2019. (Alberta Health Services)

Alberta Health Services confirmed the new hospital will not include blood donation services when it opens in 2019.

The ​$647.5-million building will offer 172 beds, a cancer centre, eight operating rooms, as well as an obstetrics unit, diagnostic imaging and respiratory therapy.

"We've got a lot to look forward to with this hospital," said Coun. Eunice Friesen, a retired nurse.

Before running for Grande Prairie city council in 2017, Friesen worked as an occupational nurse on work sites throughout the Peace region.

"We do have a high level of traumatic injury here," she said. "Now that they've got this shiny, new, extensive hospital, I trust AHS will reassess blood services."

Closest clinic 460 kilometres away

The closest blood donation clinic is in Edmonton, nearly a five-hour drive southeast of Grande Prairie.

CBS also runs mobile clinics in Whitecourt and Edson, which are both more than 250 kilometres away.

"It seems they're always screaming for donations — for people to go and donate — and yet you have a city this big and nowhere to go and do it," said Pat Hull, who lives in Grande Prairie.

A blood donation saved her life as an infant. Hull and her twin sister were born nine weeks premature with a life-threatening blood condition.

Hull started donating regularly when she turned 18, using a mobile blood clinic up to three times a year for about three decades.

"You just feel like you're giving back," she said. "Somebody donated for you, so you kind of feel like you're doing your duty."

She stopped giving blood in 2011, after CBS cut its mobile clinic to Grande Prairie.

The not-for-profit organization, which is funded by provincial and territorial health ministries, also collects umbilical cord blood, stem cells, organs and tissue, as well as monetary donations.



Zoe Todd

Video Journalist

Zoe Todd is a CBC video journalist based in Alberta, filing videos and stories for web, radio and TV.


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