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Amid blood donor shortage, no North Bay mobile clinics planned

Canadian Blood Services says it 'must focus on collecting blood in more densely populated areas' due to a number of factors
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As blood donor numbers drop to the lowest in a decade, no mobile clinics are planned for northern Ontario. 

Canadian Blood Services says it needs 100,000 new donors to ensure patients' needs can be met.

See: Number of Canadian blood donors plummets to lowest point in a decade during COVID-19

Since the start of the pandemic, the number of regular donors has dropped by 31,000 people, said chief supply chain officer and donor relations vice-president Rick Prinzen in a news release. He said COVID-19 restrictions have had an impact because they couldn't recruit new donors in person.

The only blood donor site in northeastern Ontario is in Sudbury, where plasma is collected. The Sudbury office says it needs 200 new donors a month to meet the region's needs.

Many northern Ontario residents haven't been able to donate blood since 2019 when CBS ended its mobile clinics in Timmins, North Bay, Sturgeon Falls, Espanola, Blind River, Elliot Lake, Sault Ste. Marie, New Liskeard and Kirkland Lake. 

When the clinics were cancelled, the Sudbury clinic changed from collecting whole blood to collecting plasma. It's used to treat life-threatening conditions such as bleeding disorders, liver diseases and certain types of cancer.

"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. 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," said Agnes Caruso, CBS communications specialist, in an email.

"It is difficult for us knowing there are people in northern Ontario who may want to donate blood but because of distance to the nearest collection centre are unable to do so."

When people are travelling out of town, she said they can check to see if there's a donor centre that fits into their travel plans.

"It's also important to note that patients in your community will continue to receive the blood products they need at their local hospital when they need them," said Caruso.