Rose Bergen, a longtime Burns Lake resident, is close to reaching her blood donation goal of 35 pints.
The committed 73-year-old has already donated 31 pints of blood throughout her life.
“I want to give blood to people that need it; it is a huge thing in my life,” she told Lakes District News.
However, for the past few years Bergen has been faced with a challenge that prevents her from reaching her goal. The closest place for Burns Lake residents to donate blood is 743 away, in Kamloops, which has a mobile donor centre, while the closest permanent donor centre is 901 km away, in Kelowna.
“That means a night out, and five or six meals,” she said. “I have the veins, but I don’t have the resources to get up there; it’s too far away.”
Most people in Burns Lake are surprised when she brings this up, she said.
“People think there’s blood service in Prince George, and I tell them there’s not,” she said, adding that she’s been trying to raise awareness about this issue.
“I care that people are aware that there are no blood services [in Northern B.C.]. We need this so badly.”
Although Prince George used to have a permanent location where people could donate blood, the clinic closed in 2015 along with several other locations across Canada.
According to the Canadian Blood Services, these clinics closed due to a “decline in demand” for blood products, which allowed them to cut down expenses and close some of their locations.
The organization told Lakes District News that one of the benefits of the closures has been an increase in blood quality since the blood is now collected in larger centres and can be delivered to patients in a shorter period of time. When blood was collected in Prince George, it would still need to be processed in the Lower Mainland before it could be delivered to hospitals up north.
“Holding a donor centre in a more remote location could impact our ability to ship the blood quickly to our manufacturing sites,” explained Marcelo Dominguez, a Canadian Blood Services spokesperson. “Ultimately, logistical challenges mean that we must focus on collecting blood in more densely-populated areas.”
Dominguez noted that although blood is not collected in Northern B.C., blood is still supplied to northern residents from other areas thanks to their national inventory.
“It is difficult for us knowing there are people in Northern B.C. who wish to donate blood but because of distance are unable to do so,” he added. “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 donor centres to meet higher demand, we will make every effort to do so.”
According to the Canadian Blood Services, Canadians are some of the most loyal donors in the world, donating more than two times per year on average.