Thunder Bay

Blood collection in Thunder Bay too costly, official says

The director of Canadian Blood Services for northwestern Ontario is pouring cold water on a campaign to restart blood collection in Thunder Bay.

Social media campaign looks to bring back mobile clinics

Canadian Blood Services stopped running mobile blood clinics in Thunder Bay in 2012, due to the cost and travel time to the nearest permanent facility in Winnipeg. (CBC)

The director of Canadian Blood Services for northwestern Ontario is pouring cold water on a campaign to restart blood collection in Thunder Bay. 

Pamela Mullins says running mobile clinics in the city, which stopped in 2012, was very expensive because the nearest permanent blood collection and processing facility is in Winnipeg. 

"Sending staff to more remote locations, transferring the staff and the equipment, providing meals and accommodation, transporting the product back and forth to manufacturers — all of that does add up," Mullins told CBC Thunder Bay. 

"We're funded by taxpayers through provincial and territorial ministries of health so it's incumbent upon us as an organization to ensure that the public funds are used as prudently and cost effectively as possible." 

Lakehead University student Josee Sabo wants to restart blood collection in Thunder Bay. (Facebook)
Blood must be processed within hours of being collected, under guidelines set by Health Canada, she said. 

"Our guidelines to get our blood product to the nearest facility are very, very tight and Thunder Bay was pushing that envelope."  

CBS has recently been the focus of a social media campaign, led by Lakehead University student Josee Sabo, to restart blood collection in Thunder Bay. 

"I think Canadian Blood Services needs to see that there is a donor base here, willing to donate. There are people who want to help," Sabo said. 

Less demand for blood 

Mobile clinics are run in Kenora and Dryden because they are closer to Winnipeg. The national blood agency runs close to 22,000 mobile clinics per year, which tend to focus on more densely populated regions. 

Lack of blood collection does not affect a region's supply, Mullins said. 

"We are a national supply system. It doesn't matter where you live in the country." 

New surgical techniques and the evolution of blood replacement products have also led to less demand for both plasma and whole blood, she added. 

Mullins said Canadian Blood Services reviews its collection program every year, but can't say whether Thunder Bay will ever become a donation site again. 

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