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Hospital patients need your help now

40 per cent drop in inventory forces rationing of hospital blood supply - more donors needed urgently

Ottawa - October 29, 2008 -- In the last two months the national blood inventory - our emergency reserve - has dropped by more than 40 per cent. On Tuesday, it had dropped to two days on hand for the most common blood types.

While patients' needs for emergencies are being met, the reduced availability of blood is challenging some hospitals' ability to serve the needs of elective or routine patients. Hospitals may have to resort to delays in treatment or postponement of elective surgery if the situation does not reverse itself soon.

Canadian Blood Services has increased its recruitment efforts but demand is still outpacing supply. This means Canadian Blood Services has drawn down on its inventory and rationed its blood shipments to hospitals.

"It may surprise Canadians to know that even in good times, we only carry four to six days' supply of blood to meet the entire country's needs," says Dr. Graham Sher, CEO of Canadian Blood Services. "Right now, for the most critical blood types, we are hovering around a two-day supply. This puts the blood system, and Canadians who depend on it, in a vulnerable position. Simply put, we need more donors now."

It is estimated that about one in two Canadians can give blood. However this year, only one in 60 actually has.

Keeping a reserve of blood that can be used in case of emergencies or natural disasters is the cornerstone of a safe blood system. Because of our current collections challenge, that cornerstone is eroding.

Deeply rooted in the challenge is the need to grow the list of active blood donors in this country.

"Active Canadian blood donors, those who have donated at least once in the past 12 months, are some of the most generous in the world. The problem is, there are too few of them to meet the growing need for blood," says Dr. Sher.

In the last three fiscal years, the need for blood for hospital patients has gone up by more than 3 per cent - climbing to nearly 850,000 units of blood needed per year.

In an effort to increase donations from new and existing donors, Canadian Blood Services is calling on all eligible Canadians to make an appointment to donate blood.

The greatest need for donors is at our 40 permanent locations across the country. Information about clinic location and hours can be found at blood.ca, or by calling 1 888 2 DONATE. Please call today and book an appointment to save a life.

By the numbers:

  • 1 in 2 Canadians say that they or a family member has required blood
  • 1 in 2 Canadians can give blood
  • 1 in 60 actually has given blood in the past year
  • There are 400,000 active blood donors in Canada
  • Over 90,000 donors are required each and every month to keep up with hospital demand
  • In the last three years, hospital demand is up 3.3 per cent
  • Donors can give every 56 days
  • A cancer patient can require up to eight units of blood weekly
  • A liver transplant may need up to 50 units of blood

-30-

For more information contact:

Ron Vezina
Director, Media Relations & External Communications
Canadian Blood Services
w: 613-739-2044
c: 613-715-0199
e: ron.vezina@blood.ca

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