A ‘perfect storm' disrupts supplies to Canadian Blood Services and prompts an urgent fundraiser as summer draws to a close.
Ron Vezina, the nonprofit's vice president of public affairs, told Global News on Wednesday that the ongoing impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, extreme weather and more Canadians traveling abroad left a gap of 10,000 fundraising appointments within the network .
“It feels like the perfect storm of all storms,” he said.
“All of these things result in a significantly reduced impact on blood inventory.”
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Vezina noted that summer is typically a slower time of year to donate blood as many Canadians try to take time out of their schedules to enjoy their free time.
However, Canada's blood services were “in a weaker position this summer than they have been in the past,” Vezina said, and extreme weather has made it harder to ramp up supplies.
“In the recent Kelowna (BC) fires, we lost at least 300 whole blood samples. Also, we lost a few collection days at our plasma site,” he said.
“It's a pretty critical time over the next few weeks where we need people to get involved and get involved.”
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According to the Canadian Interagency Forest Fire Center, this summer has been ravaged by wildfires that have burned 15 million hectares of land so far.
Most recently, attention has turned to the wildfires in British Columbia and the Northwest Territories.
British Columbia officials said Monday the number of properties destroyed or significantly damaged by wildfires around the Central Okanagan rose from 181 to 189 as British Columbia's southern interior region transitions from responding to rebuilding.
West Kelowna Fire Chief Jason Brolund said at a news conference that the destructive McDougall Creek fire is still burning out of control, but the fight against the blaze is now taking place in the hills above the community, “not the streets and neighborhoods.” .
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Meanwhile, the Northwest Territories region is preparing as tens of thousands of people return home after a much-needed victory in fighting a fire that was threatening Yellowknife.
The status of a wildfire 17 kilometers from the outskirts of town was changed to detained on Monday after a weekend of cooler temperatures and a light amount of rain favored the firefighting effort.
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Yellowknife officials said while the development represents a crucial turning point in the fight, it's not yet safe for people to return to the state capital.
In addition, MPs unanimously voted Monday to postpone an election scheduled for October because of wildfires. The new date for the NWT election is November 14th.
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Vezina said extreme weather events have resulted in some staff members being unavailable to conduct appointments and/or being unable to see donors for safety reasons.
This, along with the ongoing impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, which has seen Canadian Blood Services see a drop in donations due to the spread of the virus, has prompted the organization to ask for help in filling 10,000 appointments as soon as possible.
“To get over that hurdle, we're hoping that in the fall, when people are going back to their routines, back to school, back to campus, back to the workplace, we'll see a much better participation of ours,” he said.
“We also know that we need about two appointments for a pick-up. Only about 50 percent of our appointments result in a pickup. People change their plans, things happen, we understand that, but it just means we have to work extra hard. Two dates for a collection is a pretty high ratio.”
The urgent appeal for blood donations in Winnipeg continues
Vezina added that donating blood is not a time-consuming activity either.
“In about an hour you could save a life,” he said.
“We all need to look within and say, ‘If I am able, if I am entitled, now is the time to hear that call.' If you've been thinking about this for a while… now is the time to put those good intentions into action.”
– with files from The Canadian Press
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