Blood donor clinic leaves Rocky for good
By Brittany Willsie
Stuart Burke is a regular blood donor. On Monday, March 22, he donated for the 77th time and was notified that it would be the last time he could donate at the mobile blood donor clinic in Rocky Mountain House.
Burke has some concerns about the mobile clinic’s closure, including convenience and the distance to travel to a different donor clinic. With no clinic in Rocky, the closest place to donate blood is in Red Deer.
“When you donate blood, it does take a little bit out of you – approximately a pint – and you might feel tired, so to drive back from Red Deer alone wouldn’t be optimum either. I might look at future donations somewhere else, but the convenience has definitely dropped off,” Burke said.
Jennifer Dareichuk is the associate director of donor relations with Canadian Blood Services (CBS).
She said the closure is permanent and it’s highly unlikely Rocky’s mobile clinic will resume in the future.
There were several reasons to close, but Dareichuk said donor support was absolutely not one of them.
“For Rocky Mountain House, it was not about the units that we were collecting from the community. We’ve seen extremely strong community support from Rocky for a number of years, so we have a great donor base, great community support, many partners and groups that have given a lot of time to supporting our blood donor clinic,” she explained.
In total, 13 mobile donor centres are closing in Alberta, with six of them being from rural communities.
Dareichuk said CBS has been transitioning away from their mobile clinics to focus on their fixed centres to ensure they’re collecting the blood they need effectively.
“This shift has been taking place slowly over time and part of it is ensuring we utilize our public funds in an efficient way, so finding ways to be respectful of the fact that we are publicly funded and ensure that we continue to have the blood that we need but do it in a cost-effective manner,” she said.
She added that the fixed sites also experience less disruption because they’re in areas where CBS sees fewer circumstances that might affect their ability to operate.
Dareichuk said it’s unclear how long the mobile clinic has been coming to Rocky, but CBS has records going back over a decade. During that time, there have been 8,500 units of blood collected.
Burke recalls donating for nearly 30 years, only at the Rocky location.
As Burke has an O negative blood type, he feels it’s important to donate. Only seven per cent of Canadians have O negative blood and it is considered the universal blood type as it can be used for transfusions where the blood type of the patient is unknown.
“People need blood all the time for operations, disease, sickness – it’s an important life source,” Burke said.
Although Dareichuk recognizes the inconvenience for some rural donors, she encourages them to continue making donations if they can.
“We recognize that this decision affects the donors in Rocky Mountain House, so for those that might be travelling to Red Deer, we’d encourage them to consider continuing to be a donor and booking an appointment at our donor centre there.”
The Red Deer Donor Centre is open five days a week, Tuesday to Saturday.