The agency’s website, Blood.ca, has a tally of the number of days supply will last for specific blood types, which is updated regularly. Late Thursday, there were only three days’ worth of O+ blood and four days’ worth of O- in the national inventory.
“All blood types are important but there’s a constant need for O Negative blood donors,” said CBS spokesperson Delphine Denis in an email. “In emergency situations when there’s no time to confirm a patient’s blood type, O-negative blood can mean the difference between life and death.”
While summer is generally a challenging time for collection, the group says there are multiple reasons making it particularly tough this year.
As it’s the first summer since the pandemic with relatively few restrictions, donors have less time to donate amid the return to pre-pandemic activities, CBS says. That’s exacerbated by ongoing COVID cases and isolation rules (which prevent most individuals from donating if they’ve been exposed to the virus in the last 14 days), weather events, and few opportunities to recruit donors in person.
Some donors cancelled appointments after the organization made masking optional at the end of July. The agency said it made the decision after consulting medical and epidemiology experts.
The group says it needs 57,000 potential donors across Canada (excluding Quebec, which has a separate agency) to make appointments before the end of August to ensure there’s enough supply for patients who need it.
“We urge new and returning blood, platelet and plasma donors to book and keep appointments,” said Denis, noting that since July 1, collections have been “steadily decreasing.”
Based on existing appointments, the not-for-profit group expected to fall 3,000 units short of its collections target in the coming week, Denis said early Thursday afternoon. That’s equivalent to a drop of 17 per cent in national blood supply.
The agency has been calling attention to the low blood supply for months, noting it lost 31,000 regular donors over the pandemic. In June, the organization said it was trying to restore “a critically low” national blood supply.
On average, Canadian Blood Services recommends having at least eight days’ worth of supply for each blood type.
Here’s what the website said just after 4 p.m. on Thursday:
The need for blood, plasma and platelets is “constant,” Denis said, particularly for cancer patients, accident and trauma victims, people undergoing surgery and people with blood disorders.
Canada needs more than 100,000 new donors this year to keep up with demand, the group added.
“We are one of few blood operators around the world that has not experienced a blood crisis or issued a national appeal during the pandemic,” Denis said.
In January, the American Red Cross declared its first national blood crisis as Omicron cases surged.
“Doctors have been forced to make difficult decisions about who receives blood transfusions and who will need to wait until more products become available,” the group said in a release at the time.
In January 2016, Canada faced a shortage of platelet supply, prompting CBS to declare an Amber Phase, according to an article in the Canadian Journal of Medical Laboratory Science. That meant there wasn’t enough inventory to meet all routine patient needs.
During an Amber Phase, hospitals defer or cancel elective surgeries and adjust their optimal inventory levels, among other actions. The Amber Phase ended in 36 hours.
By contrast, a Red Phase is when supply isn’t enough even for patients who need non-elective transfusions. During a Red Phase, resources are rationed, causing hospitals with patients in need to triage which patients receive blood products first according to guidelines from the National Advisory Committee on Blood and Blood Products.
JOIN THE CONVERSATION