There are no plans for the return of a blood donation clinic to Grande Prairie, said the Canadian Blood Services (CBS).
Grande Prairie and region residents need to travel to Edmonton to donate, a one-way trip of about 450 km.
The mobile blood donation clinic closed in Grande Prairie in 2011 due to the tight time restraints needed to get the donations back to an Edmonton lab to be processed, according to a 2011 Fairview Post article.
“It is difficult for us knowing that there are people in rural communities who want to donate blood, but because of geographical distance are unable to do so,” CBS said in a statement to Town & Country News.
“However, we do supply residents with blood collected from other parts of the country through our national inventory.
“Although there is strong community support for patients in many parts of Alberta, we’re not able to accommodate all potential donors with our schedule/locations.”
Grande Prairie resident Stephanie Plante has donated blood more than 55 times, starting as high school student.
She regularly went to the mobile donation clinics in Grande Prairie, but now she aims to donate about four times a year on work trips.
“I travel quite extensively for work, and if I'm in Edmonton, Calgary, Newfoundland, or wherever I am, I just try and donate as I can because I know that I'm not able to do anything here in Grande Prairie,” said Plante.
Lisa Kerkhof, a Grande Prairie resident, donates blood approximately three times a year and makes the trip to Edmonton for the sole purpose of donating.
She has been donating for about six years, and says she also donated when visiting Ontario.
“It's easy, and it's quick to do,” she said, noting there is much to do in Edmonton after donating.
“I always think that there's value in saving somebody's life is obviously a thing, but typically when I talk to people, it's because I like free cookies.”
After a blood donation, donors are given cookies and a drink.
CBS said it runs collection events at more than 400 mobile donor centres annually. The organization says the decision on those locations depends on “the number of units of blood collected, labour and transportation costs, the distance and access to the nearest production site.”
CBS said hosting a mobile donation clinic in rural areas, such as Grande Prairie, could limit its ability to ship blood quickly to manufacturing sites.
For now, CBS said it would focus on “more densely populated areas” for donations to better match the time required to take donations to a lab.
Further logistics also add to the challenges of donating blood in Grande Prairie, include transporting staff and equipment from Edmonton and providing meals and accommodation to staff.
“Please be assured that, although we cannot operate mobile donation centres in every community that would like to support us, patients will continue to receive blood products at their local hospital when needed,” said CBS.
“The benefit of a national blood system is that we are and will continue to be well-positioned to provide the right product, to the right place, at the right time.”
CBS noted that individuals who wish to donate could do so when travelling around Canada and can find donation locations at blood.ca or the GiveBlood app.
Plante said some people might feel uncomfortable with donating while on a trip.
“Whenever you donate blood, you have some risk,” she noted; some people may feel faint afterwards.
“I would much rather be at home than in a hotel room in St. John's, Newfoundland, by yourself, and it's just it's good to have people around you in case you do have a reaction to giving blood.”
“I would definitely be a supporter of having it come back to town (Grande Prairie) if that was a possibility.” Still, Plante realizes the logistics behind having a clinic in Grande Prairie may not be feasible.
Jesse Boily, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Town & Country News