Help eliminate the blood shortage, Join the International Blood Registry.
Last week, we took a closer look at United Kingdom’s Blood Donation System and learned that even a first-world country like that can also be vulnerable to blood shortages. This time, we take an in-depth view of Canada’s blood donation system:
- requirements and restrictions for blood donors
- stand on donation incentives
- blood donors statistics
- blood banks that manage the country’s blood supply
Here are the requirements for blood donors in Canada:
- Must be between 17-71 years if you are a regular donor; if you are a first-timer, you must be 17-61 years old.
- Must weight at least 50 kilograms
- Must be in good health and feeling well when you give blood
- must complete a screening questionnaire
- you can give blood every 56 days.
You cannot donate blood if:
- You have lived in Central African Republic, Cameroon, Chad, Congo, Gabon, Niger, Equatorial Guinea and Nigeria and you may have been exposed to a new strain of HIV.
- You have visited the countries mentioned above and have received blood transfusions while staying there. Or if you have had sex with someone who lived there.
- You have lived or spent three months or more in France or Britain between 1980-1996. Chances are, you have been exposed to variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease (vCJD).
- You are a man who have had sex with another man since 1977, even once.
- You have taken illegal drugs intravenously.
- You have tattooed or pierced a part of your body recently. If yes, then you can’t donate blood or bone marrow for 6 months.
Incentives to Blood Donors
Just like in United Kingdom, Canada does not pay its donors for any donation. According to Canadian Blood Services (CBS), Canada’s blood system is founded on the principle of gratuity. CBS and Canadians believe that blood is a public resource that should be accessible and free to the people who need it. CBS commits to do everything to ensure that the donation experience of the donors will make them contribute to the Canadian blood supply system regularly.
Canadian Blood Services only receives blood and plasma donation from unpaid and voluntary donors and they have no plans of paying people to donate. Research shows that Canadians give blood because they want to help their fellow people who are in need.
Even though CBS does not pay for its donors, they do recognize the efforts of the selfless men who gave their blood. CBS recognizes donors at different milestone donation levels – be it his first-time, or his 10th or 100th donation. This is their way of letting donors know how important they are, especially the crucial role they play in saving people’s lives.
Is Canada’s blood supply enough?
Canada boasts one of the safest blood supplies in the world. The Canadian Blood Services have an extensive blood donation system that provides blood for those who need it. However, this does not make Canada secure from having blood shortages.
In 2008, British Columbia experienced blood crisis that could have resulted in the postponement of treatments and surgeries. In an article published on Canada.com in October 31, 2008, the national blood inventory has dropped by more than 40% in the past two months, making it the lowest point in CBS since 1998.
Canadian Blood Services Regional Director Ed Yee said that the percentage of people who give blood in British Columbia is lower than in other regions, except in Toronto, which also had less blood donors. Only 2.75% of the British Columbia population donate blood, while 6.2% of the population in Newfoundland give blood, making it the region with the most blood donors.
Yee believed that blood shortage may be attributed to time restrictions in the busy lives of people. Fraser Health’s Medical Director of Transfusion Medicine, Dr. Doug Morrison, said that another factors that contribute to blood shortage are the increase in demand due to population growth, and increased number of critically ill and trauma patients.
According to an article on Mars’ Hill online, CBS claimed that hospital demand for blood has risen to 3.3% in the last three years, but the number of donors has declined by 0.7%. In 2008, only one in 60 Canadians have given blood.
Just this September 5, 2012, the province of Nova Scotia is calling for more blood donors. CBC Nova Scotia tweeted that the Canadian Blood Services is looking for regular donors and first-timers to help boost blood supply in Canada’s second-smallest province. Though the Canadian Blood Services isn’t calling the situation an official shortage yet, officials are asking donors with O-negative blood to give blood as their supplies fall short below optimal levels.
Paul Doucet, agency spokesman in Halifax, Nova Scotia’s capital, said that O-negatives are extremely important because this blood type can be given to any patient. In an emergency situation when there isn’t enough time to determine the patient’s blood type, O-negative can be used immediately all the time.
Blood Donors Statistics and Demographics
A research published on the International Journal of Health Geographics revealed one reason for Canada’s blood shortage. A study from McMaster University showed that young adults are donating at higher rates and this may prove to be problem as the population ages. “Like other countries, Canada’s population is aging and the implications of this need to be better understood from the perspective of blood supply. So while younger people are more likely to donate, they are also a declining share of Canada’s population,” says lead researcher and assistant professor of McMaster University Antonio Páez.
Moreover, the study showed that people ages 15-24 are most likely to give blood, while those who belong to the working group – aged 25-54 – were the least likely to participate in blood drives. Highly-educated individuals, English-speaking Canadians, employees in health-related occupations and those living in small cities or towns are more likely to donate blood than immigrants, wealthy people, and those who live in larger metropolitan cities.
The study, which was funded by Canada’s Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council, Canada Blood Services and Environics Analytics, also revealed that 25% of Canadians believe there are some risks associated with donating blood. But an active and consistent education campaign could expand the donor database, which is roughly about 12.5 million eligible donors.
Sadly, there is only 3.5% of eligible donors in Canada who donate blood. Therefore, out of 100 people, only 3.5 are blood donors where 3.5 units of blood are collected from them. On average, 4.6 units of blood are needed to treat a patient, which means Canada is short of 1.1 units. The Canadian Blood Services and BloodBanker are urging all the eligible donors of Canada to roll up your sleeves and give a pint now. Blood products are vital in supporting various life-prolonging and life-saving procedures.
Blood Banks in Canada
There are two organizations that manage the blood supply in Canada. Canadian Blood Services is a national, non-profit charitable organization that aims to manage the blood and blood products in the country. They collect approximately 850,000 units of blood every year and process it to reach the thousands of patients who need it each year.
Canadian Blood Services is not a government agency but it receives its funding from the territorial ministries of health and is regulated by Health Canada.
Another blood collection organization is Héma-Québec, a non-profit successor of the Canadian Red Cross Blood Program that manages the blood supply in the province of Quebec.
Canadian Blood Services and Héma-Québec work together through exchanging blood products whenever necessary just to meet the hospitals’ needs and save lives.
Safest blood donation system in the world
The Canadian Blood Services’ questionnaire process is the first step to providing a reliable and safe blood source.Since the Canadian Blood Services also oversee the Marrow Network and OneMatch Stem Cell.
Unlike in United Kingdom, Canada has still not made its stand on the ground of lifting the ban on gay men to give blood. This has been a constant battle among LGBT groups, saying that the ban is discriminatory, unscientific and outdated. Canada is still one of the countries that put a lifetime ban on homosexuals from giving blood, but in 2011, the country’s blood supply system is taking a second look at this issue.
Dr. Dana Devine, Vice-president of Medical, Scientific & Research Affairs of Canadian Blood Services, said that officials have already started looking at changing their permanent deferral of gay men.
“Certainly we already have a process underway where we’re looking to see about changing from a permanent to a time-based deferral. It’s a step-wise thing and we have lots of consultation to do. I do think that it will happen in Canada,” Devine said.
Here in BloodBanker, we are one with the thousands of people clamoring for the ban’s lifting. Highly sensitive testing for HIV is now available; therefore, there could be close to zero chance of infected blood to get into Canada’s blood supply. Dr. Norbert Gilmore, Canadian AIDS expert, said that inviting gay men to give blood could significantly increase the country’s blood supplies.
Now that you know some facts about the blood donation supplies in Canada, I hope that this will open eyes to many Canadians to regularly donate blood. You may not need blood today or anytime soon, but someone out there heavily relies for blood products for survival. Let us not deny them their right to live, especially when we know that we can do something about it.
Help eliminate the blood shortage, Join the International Blood Registry.