Why pull plug on Sault blood donor clinics?

Last week marked the last blood donation clinics in Sault Ste. Marie. Does this bother anyone else?

The Sault Star’s Brian Kelly reported on Jan. 16 that the mobile clinics, run by Sudbury staff, would no longer be collecting whole blood in 11 Northeastern Ontario communities. This means that if Saultites want to donate blood, they are driving to Sudbury or further to do it.

I say “or further,” because Kelly’s article also says that Sudbury will accept its last blood donations on Jan. 31. Why you ask? According to the Canadian Blood Services website, a plasma donation centre is slated to open in Sudbury in the summer of 2020.

Kelly also helps answer this with a quote from a Canadian Blood Services issued statement: “We are taking steps to increase the amount of plasma collected in Canada to meet rising patient demands.”

But why end whole blood donation? And what’s the difference between blood and plasma?

A bit of web research informs me that plasma is whole blood without the cellular material. Plasma is a yellowish liquid, mainly made up of water and it represents about 55 per cent of the blood volume. When blood is drawn, the plasma is separated out, and then red blood cells and platelets are returned to the donor. The process takes a few minutes longer than whole blood donation.

According to the Red Cross website: “AB plasma can be given to anyone regardless of their blood type” and it can be “transfused to trauma, burn and shock patients, as well as people with severe liver disease or multiple clotting factor deficiencies.”

Whole blood is still needed locally, but now it will be shipped here. This makes me uncomfortable. Why make our blood travel? Will they buy carbon offset credits? Won’t shipping costs go up? Where will our blood be coming from? Does this mean more people will be affected across the province and country if there is another tainted blood scandal? Won’t this lead to blood shortages if we are cutting supply?

A quick scan of headlines also shows that blood shortages do happen in Canada, including one in the summer of 2018.

Funnily enough, thanks to the Google and Facebook spybots, as soon as I started writing this article and researching it, an ad showed up for Blood Services: “There are lots of reasons to donate blood. That’s why we need donors every day … Donated blood only lasts 42 days.”

You need donors everyday? So why close off all of Northern Ontario to blood donation? Are we too coldblooded? If you prick us, do we not bleed?

Why can’t they still do plasma donation clinics in the Sault? It seems that the equipment to accept plasma donations is not as easily transportable.

I feel cynical as I read that plasma also gets broken down into different protein products to become pharmaceuticals.

Will the Canadian Blood Services guarantee donors that their plasma will never be sold to Big Pharma? That would be proverbial blood money. Will they guarantee that we won’t have to import/pay for blood if there is a blood shortage?

My mother was very proud when she marked her 100th blood donation. I was proud of her. I’m sad to note that if she lived in the Sault, the only donation she could make now would be with her wallet.

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