Need for blood donors rises with eligibility changes

Canadian Blood Services says it must find 450 new donors a month in New Brunswick because of changes in donor eligibility rules.

Canadian Blood Services tries to expand donor base now that women can’t give blood as often

The Canadian Blood Services is urging people to make giving blood a part of their routine. (CBC)

Canadian Blood Services says it must find 450 new donors a month in New Brunswick because of changes in donor eligibility rules.

Starting Dec. 10, women will have to wait at least 12 weeks between blood donations.

The interval was increased from eight weeks to make sure women's iron stores could be replenished, said Peter MacDonald, the director of donor relations for Canadian Blood Services in Atlantic Canada.

Men will still be able to donate every eight weeks, but a change in the hemoglobin requirement for male donors may also affect donation numbers, he said. 

The minimum hemoglobin level for men will rise to 130 grams per litre from 125.

The changes have underscored the need for a larger donor base across Canada, especially in New Brunswick, MacDonald said.

"We'll need to attract 450 new donors a month across the province of New Brunswick, and when you extrapolate that over 23 months, it's a really significant challenge," said MacDonald.

The most significant change is the one affecting women. Following the old, shorter interval between donations, some donors might have been low on iron even if their hemoglobin levels were fine for giving blood.

"We found that to be the case, certainly, in some of our female donors," he said.

A call for new routine

Canadian Blood Services has tried to use the promotion of the changes to encourage people to make blood donations a part of their regular routine, MacDonald said.

"The challenge is that we struggle to move the needle on the participation rate to begin with. It's one in two Canadians that are eligible to give blood and it's one in 60 that actually do," said MacDonald.

The agency has tried to respond to the reasons some people may be reluctant to give blood, he said.

For instance, because of worries about the time it takes to donate, Canadian Blood Services has automated the process. A GiveBlood app now allows people to book and manage their donations.

As fast a possible

"We're committed to getting people in and out as quickly as possible," said MacDonald.

Canadian Blood Services staff give 600 needles a week in New Brunswick, but blood donation is not the civic duty it once seemed to be, he said.

"We want to make blood donation the next great social imperative in this country," said MacDonald.

With files from Shift.