Nova Scotia

Retired doctor with blood disorder wants donation services to return to CBRM

A Sydney River, N.S., man with a blood disorder wants to see blood services return to the Cape Breton Regional Municipality, or at the very least have a mobile clinic visit every few months.

Robert Baillie, who has hemochromatosis, says his blood is being discarded instead of being donated

Canadian Blood Services doesn't bring mobile clinics to Cape Breton Regional Municipality, saying the distance from its processing facility in Dartmouth, N.S., poses logistical challenges. (Azami Adiputera/Shutterstock)

A Sydney River, N.S., man with a blood disorder wants to see blood donation services return to the Cape Breton Regional Municipality, or at the very least have a mobile clinic visit every few months.

Canadian Blood Services closed its Sydney, N.S., clinic in 2015, citing low donation numbers as part of the reason.

However, retired doctor Robert Baillie believes there's a case to be made for bringing mobile clinics to the area. Baillie has hemochromatosis, a genetic disease that causes a buildup of iron in his blood. If not treated, the buildup can cause organ failure.

The condition can be treated with regular phlebotomy, a process that removes a specific amount of blood and is also known as bloodletting. But Baillie said his blood is being disposed of as medical waste instead of being donated and used in patients who need it.

"Unfortunately, we have no place to donate. Our blood is perfectly fine, in fact, it's as good or better than most because of the iron," said Baillie.

"Our blood could be used for blood transfusions, for blood-clotting factors, blood plasma, blood platelets, all the things that you use blood for."

Retired physician Robert Baillie would like to see a mobile blood clinic come to CBRM. (Brittany Wentzell/CBC)

Hemochromatosis is found in approximately one in 300 people. It is commonly referred to as "the Celtic curse" as it is widely found among people with northern European or British Isles ancestry. 

Baillie's own ancestors brought over a bloodletting device still in his family's possession. 

He believes the instances of hemochromatosis could be higher than one in 300 on Cape Breton, as much of the island was settled by the Scottish Gaels. 

"Every spring when I go up to the golf course for the first time, I usually meet two or three more people, a lot of men diagnosed with hemochromatosis and we talk amongst ourselves that … here's this good blood and it's just gone down the sink," he said.

Baillie has reached out to Canadian Blood Services to ask them to bring a mobile clinic to the Cape Breton Regional Municipality, but has not heard back. The only spot a mobile clinic visits in Cape Breton is Port Hawkesbury.

No plans to reopen

In a statement to CBC News, Canadian Blood Services said it has no plans to reopen a clinic or bring a mobile clinic to CBRM.

"Decisions around where we hold donation events are assessed on a national basis and based on many factors including the number of units collected, labour and transportation costs, the distance and access to the nearest production site and the need to operate an efficient blood system," the statement said.

"Ultimately, logistical challenges mean we must focus on collecting blood in more densely populated areas. Holding a donation event in a more remote location could impact our ability to ship the blood quickly to our manufacturing sites."

The statement also explained that the drive from Sydney to its processing facility in Dartmouth, which takes approximately 4 hours and 20 minutes, poses logistical challenges.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Brittany Wentzell

Current Affairs Reporter/Editor

Brittany Wentzell is based in Sydney, N.S., as a reporter for Information Morning Cape Breton. She has covered a wide range of issues including education, forestry and municipal government. Story ideas? Send them to brittany.wentzell@cbc.ca

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