Changes coming to rural blood donors


By Miranda Leybourne


People in the Westman region who regularly or occasionally donate blood to the Canadian Blood Services (CBS) will have a harder time giving of the precious substance. CBS plans to shut down its Brandon, Man. clinic as of June 8. Mobile blood donor clinics that ran out of the Brandon clinic will also be no more.

Tracy Smith, CBS associate director for the prairie region, says the only permanent blood donor clinic in the province after June 8 will be the one in Winnipeg. And while Susan Matsumoto, CBS’s director of donor relations for the same region, says the closure is due to low donation numbers -- with the Brandon clinic only achieving 75 to 80 per cent of its target of 5,000 units of blood per year -- Smith says this is not strictly the case.

“The reason for us closing the permanent clinic in Brandon and stopping the mobiles in the rural communities is not because of the collections,” Smith stresses. “There’s a variety of reasons...of course [we look at] how many units we collect, but there’s also labour and transportation costs, the distance to the nearest production site. We’re striving to operate a more efficient blood system.”

While Smith says she cannot go into the exact funding model that the CBS uses, the closure is all about keeping the service efficient.

“What we’re looking at is...productivity benefits, looking at being more cost-effective.”

Smith says CBS is not worried that blood donation levels will go down because of the closure of the permanent donor clinic in Brandon or the cessation of mobile clinics in rural areas, despite a total of 11 communities no longer having regular mobile blood donation clinics moving forward. She says the reason the rural clinics won’t be run out of Winnipeg instead of Brandon is that it would be too “cost-prohibitive”. 

“When we are looking at the closure of these community [mobile clinics], it does not necessarily mean that we are not collecting blood elsewhere. There are still areas where they may see [donation] increases; larger cities and urban populations that have the ability to collect more will see increases as well.’s not necessarily that we are collecting less units.”

Smith adds that she does recognize that a number of donors from rural communities may no longer be able to donate blood as regularly.

“It is hard for us to impact donors that have been loyal and have donated over the years at the clinics,” she says, adding that she hopes that donors who make trips into Winnipeg once or twice a year will arrange to donate at those times. 

A spokesperson from Prairie Mountain Health said that they feel it’s important that they are still able to receive “necessary blood products for our patients”, and that the CBS has committed that any changes in how clinics are run -- or not run, as the case may be -- will not compromise that. 

The last mobile clinic for Neepawa will be held on May 17 at the Yellowhead Centre.