We rely on blood to live, but donate it to those whose need is greater than ours.
When the blood signal is called by Canadian Blood Services, it’s said that the blood supply level is low for those needing it. That includes cancer patients and those going through surgery.
There is some cause for concern when the blood supply is low, although it has never seemed like a national epidemic. We are still able to go to a clinic to give.
But what happens if Canadian Blood Services employees are forced into a work stoppage? Despite Canadian Blood Services reaching a tentative deal with its employees last week, the potential of a strike begs the question.
OPSEU President Warren (Smokey) Thomas weighed in on the situation leading up to the strike.
“They seem to want to take the whole organization to, over time, a part-time work force, and to lay off skilled workers,” he says. Thomas also argued that the organization wanted to cut $100-million in costs on a $900-million budget.
Calls to the London blood donor clinic went unanswered.
In a media release on Jan. 8, chief supply chain officer for Canadian Blood Services Ian Mumford said, “The tentative agreement demonstrates Canadian Blood Services’ commitment to the collective bargaining process and to the reliability and safety of Canada’s blood system. We are hopeful that the members will vote to ratify the agreement that has been mutually recommended by both Canadian Blood Services and OPSEU.”
Coordinator of the Blood Transfusion Laboratories at London Health Sciences Centre Jeff Kinney explains how they prepare in the case of a shortage. Or in this case, a strike.
“We have protocols in place that would deal with shortages. One of the things about blood transfusions is that there’s different products that are used for blood transfusions. Often what we see are specific product shortages, not specifically all shortages across the board. So when we are faced with those situations, we have a number of mechanisms in place to help deal with those shortages.”
Kinney says one of those things is a mock disaster exercise for a shortage, something they did just last February.
“We went through a scenario of there being a blood shortage, hospitals were contacted, and their emergency plans were put to test to ensure that we were prepared should an actual shortage occur. That was last February and it performed as expected, and it’s comforting to know that we have measures in place should they be required.”
Leading up to a potential strike, Kinney says it’s business as usual, although they do take certain steps to ensure patients’ needs are being filled. There is a hospital blood emergency committee, as well as provincial and national blood emergency committees discussing strategies in different scenarios. The hospitals are also in constant contact with Canadian Blood Services, making sure that the organization’s contingency plan will minimize a possible shortage.
Thankfully, the potential of last week’s strike was kept to Ontario. Kinney says that if Canadian Blood Services employees were to go on strike, they would get blood from the rest of their clinics in other provinces.
“These situations are such scenario driven in how or why a shortage may occur and obviously the best way to avoid these potential shortages is for people to continue to donate on a regular basis,” Kinney adds.