For a long time, mobile blood donor clinics have been coming to Estevan about four times a year. Before the pandemic, they would easily hit the target of about 96 donations, sometimes seeing up to 120 people coming through the doors of the Estevan Leisure Centre to become a donor.
While the pandemic slowed everything down, the latest clinics still saw as many people showing up to donate blood as the staff could get through, while keeping everything sanitized and ensuring people were distanced.
"We've always had very strong participation and support from the community members with our blood donor clinic. Estevan has a very strong donor base. It was very uncommon for us not to hit our target," said Jennifer Dareichuk, associate director of donor relations with Canadian Blood Service, in an interview with the Mercury.
On March 23, Estevan saw its last mobile blood donor clinic. It was again well attended with a lot of first-time donors participating. Many other communities across Saskatchewan and all over the country also had their last mobile clinics recently. The decision to cut the number of mobile clinic destinations was made on the federal level, and wasn't based on participation, according to Dareichuk.
"In terms of performance and community support, it was extremely strong (in Estevan). And that was not a factor … It has happened in a variety of communities all across the country.
"We take a look regularly at how we manage the blood supply, and we find ways to align the supply with demand and look at ways to continuously improve our operations. So, decisions about where we hold donor events is done on a national basis. We look at a number of different factors. Some of them include the units that we collect, our labour and transportation costs, any logistical challenges that we might encounter with having events, the distance from a community to our collection hub and our production facilities.
“Also, we look at the need to operate an efficient blood system, knowing that we are publicly funded."
Dareichuk went on to explain that the distance between Estevan and their hub in Regina was a factor in this decision, along with some logistical challenges they had with operating mobile beds.
"(There are) two components to this. One is that over the last number of years, we've been shifting where we collect blood, we've been shifting from mobile health more to our fixed sites. We've been slowly making this shift for a variety of reasons. One is that … we're publicly funded, so we're always looking for ways to ensure that we … improve efficiency within our operations.
“And it's more costly for us to run mobile donor events, compared to donor events that are fixed sites because we don't have to travel.
"The other part behind that shift is that we also have greater control and stability with the collections that we make at our fixed donor centre. The closest fixed donor centre is Regina, so we've been trying to increase our collections there, because it's within our control, we see less volatility and it's more efficient."
While several sites across Saskatchewan lost their mobile clinics, Dareichuk said it's been a gradual move and they did some changes to ensure that they still can keep up with the need for blood in the province.
"When we make those decisions and we conduct those reviews, we make sure that if we are going to leave a mobile community, we have enough supply coming in to meet the demand to ensure that we're not affecting hospitals and patients. That's always top of mind when we're making these decisions. So when you look at places that we're not going to do anymore, those collections are going to be coming from somewhere else throughout the organization and across the country," Dareichuk said.
While there will be no more blood donor clinics coming to the Energy City, Estevan donors will still have other options. Weyburn will still see their clinics coming on a regular basis at this time. People from Estevan would need to adjust their Canada Blood Service profile settings online or by calling 1-888-2-DONATE to be notified about the events in Weyburn and to be able to book their appointments.
The other option is Regina's clinic, which is open four days a week Wednesday-Saturday. People would need to make an appointment there, but Dareichuk said they usually have spots available within a couple of days.
"If people are travelling to the city, we encourage them to go to blood.ca or download our GiveBlood app. It's very convenient to see what appointments are available and if there's an appointment available, they can book immediately, and come to our donor centre."
Dareichuk said they are always grateful for all the support they saw from Estevan in the past and probably will see in the future.
"We definitely have heard from the donors and understand the disappointment, but I just wanted to be clear, they really have supported us over the years and we've really appreciated that support. We understand that this is disappointing news for them. We appreciate the commitment that they have shown and for the ones that can continue to remain involved with us, we really appreciate it."