Montreal

Héma-Québec sees surge in blood donations after premier's appeal

Quebec's blood collection agency needs 1,000 donations per day to keep up with demand under normal circumstances, and it's asking Quebecers to continue donating over the coming weeks and months to make sure there is no shortage.

Blood collection agency hopes donors will continue coming over time, to keep up with demand

Héma-Québec needs 1,000 blood donations per day to be able to keep up with demand for blood and blood products, including stem cells and plasma. (Ryan Remiorz/Canadian Press)

The provincial blood collection agency, Héma-Québec, hopes the sharp increase in blood donations it received Monday following Premier François Legault's appeal to Quebecers will set the stage for the coming weeks and months.

During the government's daily COVID-19 update Monday, Legault said donating blood was the best way citizens could help, as the government tries to slow the spread of the novel coronavirus in Quebec.

"Several people are writing to me to ask what they can do. Well, I tell them, 'Go out and give blood,'" said Legault.

 Héma-Québec said there was a "really tremendous" response to that appeal "within minutes."

"It has really been a game changer for us, and we hope that it will be a sustainable one to help us get through to donors," said agency spokesperson Laurent-Paul Ménard.

Héma-Québec needs 1,000 blood donations per day to be able to provide blood and blood products, including stem cells and plasma.

The number of daily donations dropped to about 75 per cent of that last week after citizens were asked to stay home, and many public services across Quebec closed down.

Ménard said that number has gone back up to around 1,000 donations.

"This is the magic number, the magic goal that we have to reach on a daily basis."

The long-term need for regular donors is particularly important for blood components that have a limited life span, Ménard said. 

For example, platelets only have a shelf life of seven days and have to be transfused within a week.

Special measures put in place

Héma-Québec is taking extra precautions to ensure the health of donors and staff in blood donor clinics.

Ménard said clinics already meet high levels of hygiene, and all the equipment used is sterile.

Additional measures have been taken to disinfect donors' beds and other equipment.

Donors will also be asked new questions to determine whether they have been in contact with anyone presenting symptoms of COVID-19.

When Premier François Legault urged Quebecers to continue giving blood Monday, the response was immediate. (CBC)

"Zero risk doesn't exist, but we are taking serious measures in our normal operations," said Ménard.

Travellers who have been out of the country have to respect a 21-day rule before giving blood, under normal circumstances. Anyone entering the country is currently being asked to comply with the government's 14-day self-isolation requirement.

Ménard said there is no evidence at this point that indicates that COVID-19 can be transmitted by transfusion.

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