Not being able to donate blood locally is enough to make Julie Funfer’s boil.
An avid blood donor since Grade 12, Funfer was disappointed to learn, after moving to Salmon Arm about a year ago, that the nearest blood donation clinics are in Vernon and Kamloops.
“I was trying to book an appointment time and that’s when I discovered I have to figure out an appointment time, when I can get off work and the 45 minutes to get there, and make sure I get there on time and then drive all the way back,” said Funfer, who has since taken to social media to voice her frustrations and hear what others have to say. “I started talking about it online because I thought, I can’t be the only one that’s frustrated with this. And speaking with other people, they were saying, ‘I know, I would donate blood if it was here.'”
Funfer also reached out to Canadian Blood Services, the organization that oversees the national blood donations program.
“Their justification was – the actual people I spoke to in the clinic said it cost too much money, and the PR reply was that it takes a lot of logistics. And I’m sure that comes down to the money part too,” said Funfer.
In response to a request from the Observer for information, Canadian Blood Services explained decisions around where and when they run blood clinics are based on a number of factors including the number of units of blood collected, labour and transportation costs, the distance and access to the nearest production site and the need to operate an efficient blood system.
“Canadian Blood Services works in a highly-regulated environment that demands that the blood we collect at our mobile clinics be delivered for manufacturing within a very tight time frame,” states Canadian Blood Services in an email. “Holding a clinic in a more remote location could impact our ability to ship the blood quickly to our manufacturing sites. Ultimately, logistical challenges mean that we must focus on collecting blood in more densely-populated areas.
“It is difficult for us knowing there are people in Salmon Arm, Sorrento and Sicamous who wish to donate blood but because of distance are unable to do so. However, please know that we consistently assess our ability to meet hospital and patient demand for blood and blood products. Should it ever become necessary to expand our mobile clinics to meet higher demand, we will make every effort to do so.”
The Canadian Blood Services put out a call for blood donations in March of this year, stating the national inventory was “critically low.” The organization put out a similar call in February. This only adds to Funfer’s frustration and makes her question, if the need is great, why Canadian Blood Services can’t be more accommodating now to Shuswap residents willing to give.
“What about all these people that may be willing to donate and don’t have a vehicle to get there or who have to work and you can’t take time off work to go give blood?” said Funfer. “It just doesn’t make sense… Why not even come to a one-day, full-day clinic from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. in a town like Salmon Arm and use a church or something that would give the space and be done with it? It’s one day. You still wouldn’t have to house anybody overnight.”
Funfer isn’t letting her frustration keep her from donating blood. She’s made an appointment to visit one of the Vernon blood clinics sometime in June.
“It’s something you can do to make a difference, to save a life,” said Funfer. “If somebody needs a blood transfusion, it could save a life. And so I think, OK, why not. I mean it hurts for a little bit – it may not really even hurt – I just think it’s a really easy and selfless thing to do.”