Canadian Blood Services’ (CBS) Kingston clinic is currently achieving 67 per cent of their daily blood collection goal during the month of May, compared to over 95 per cent the same time last year.
“We really need to attract new blood donors in the Kingston area,” said Territory Manager Debbi Barfoot. “We need to get new donors through the door.”
Barfoot said that with stringent public health measures in place to protect staff, volunteers and donors during the COVID-19 pandemic, there should be no concerns about safety.
“Our number one mandate is safety,” she said, “We’re very in tune with that, that is what we live by.”
CBS implemented a myriad of enhanced safety protocols in response to Covid-19 including wellness screening prior to clinic admission, installation of plexiglass dividers, increased cleaning of all surfaces and equipment, and keeping donors two meters apart.
“I think we jumped on it really well and really quickly,” Barfoot said. “Canadians rely on us to keep the blood supply system safe and we take this responsibility seriously.”
Additionally, the clinic accepts donations by appointment only, eliminating walk-ins, she said, and implemented a mandatory mask policy for all staff and volunteers on Monday, May 4, 2020.
This came a full two weeks before Canada’s chief medical officer Dr. Theresa Tam officially recommended masks for general use on Wednesday, May 20, 2020.
Clinic donors have been required to wear masks since Monday, May 11, 2020.
“We are giving our blood donors masks when they walk in the door now,” Barfoot said. “These are cloth masks that donors can take home to wash and reuse them when they are out in the community.”
Donation boost in March thanks to PM
Collections started off strong at the beginning of the pandemic, Barfoot said, as Prime Minister Justin Trudeau encouraged Canadians to donate blood during his daily Covid-19 address on Thursday, March 19, 2020.
“Even if you don’t work in a hospital, you can still keep people healthy,” Trudeau said in his address. “For example, we still need blood donors. So if you’re able, consider going in and donating.”
“That really helped us,” Barfoot said. “Immediately after that, we saw an influx of brand-new first time donors and our collections were quite strong,” she said.
Donors have to wait between 56 and 84 days before they can give again, so she partially attributes the May slowdown to everyone willing to donate locally now just waiting to be eligible.
Between March 24 and April 30, Kingston had 278 first-time blood donors. “That’s about 18.5 per cent of all donations [which] came from new donors. We need to be at a higher number. Our goal is 20-25 per cent new blood donors coming through the door,” Barfoot said.
Barfoot said she also noticed a significant proportion of “reinstated donors,” people who had not donated in over two years coming out to give.
During that same period, 391, or roughly 26 per cent of donations came from reinstated blood donors.
She suggested a desire to help out has “triggered something in those individuals. It’s bringing them back into the blood system.”
While demand for blood also declined at the start of the pandemic as hospitals delayed elective surgeries across the province, it’s ramping up again now she said.
“About two weeks ago now, Ontario opened up elective surgeries so the demand is back,” Barfoot explained.
Kingston CBS ran their first mobile blood clinic since the start of the pandemic in Napanee last Friday, May 22, 2020. Under normal circumstances, Kingston CBS operates mobile clinics twice weekly, in nearby communities such Napanee and Picton, which lack their own permanent clinics.
Host municipalities have not been running them, she said, in light of lock down measures, but the return of mobile clinics bodes well for the local blood supply.
“We over-collected,” she said. “We collected 117 per cent of our goal.”
The summer months normally bring a dip in donations, as people take summer vacation or head to the cottage. Barfoot said this summer might be different.
“We might benefit in the sense that people are going to be close to home, it might be top of mind to come in,” she explained.
Generally, Barfoot is feeling grateful for the local support they’ve received and proud of the work CBS has done through the pandemic thus far.
“I feel we reacted very quickly, very strongly, and followed everything Public Health told us to do,” she said.
“The biggest message I would like to put out there to Kingston is to say thanks and extend our gratitude to all those that have donated the past couple of months, we are blessed to have the support of the area.”
For more information about donating blood visit blood.ca.
Samantha Butler-Hassan is a staff writer and life-long Kingston resident. She is a news junkie and mom who loves reading and exploring the community.
This article has been made possible with the support of the Local Journalism Initiative.