Brandon’s Canadian Blood Services Donor Clinic is closing, with its 17 staff members given a 90-day termination notice on Thursday.
The twice-weekly and every-other Saturday operation at The Town Centre will be replaced by a twice-monthly mobile blood donor clinic that’ll drive in from Winnipeg starting on June 15 at a yet to be determined location.
The 11 Westman area mobile blood donor clinics that are currently serviced out of the Brandon office will be discontinued during a scattering of dates leading up to the local office’s June 8 closure.
These include mobile clinics in Dauphin, Deloraine, Erickson, Glenboro, Hamiota, Killarney, Minnedosa, Neepawa, Souris, Virden and Boissevain, which collect a combined 2,900 units of blood per year.
The Brandon office’s impending closure comes as the result of "a combination of things," Canadian Blood Services director of donor relations for the prairie region Susan Matsumoto said. "It’s always a difficult decision to come to when you’re affecting people’s lives."
The Brandon office has not been collecting its targets for at least four years, she said, noting that they were getting only 75 to 85 per cent of the 5,000 units of blood per year they’d set as their goal.
Funded by a collection of provincial and territorial governments, Matsumoto said that the stagnant funding of recent years despite ever-increasing costs has put a strain on their operations, forcing them to cut less cost-effective efforts, such as those in Westman.
Canadian Blood Services is striving to better centralize their operations in general, Matsumoto said, explaining that the farther they travel to collect blood the more expensive it generally is.
It’s upsetting to hear that "the dollar is going to come before our health," Manitoba Government and General Employees’ Union president Michelle Gawronsky said.
"Blood is life, there’s no other way to put it, and I don’t understand it. I just don’t understand the reasoning behind it," she said, adding that it’s unlikely that lessened blood donor opportunities will result in more blood coming in.
"It could be my granddaughter that needs blood, and it scares me that it might not be there for her."
Twelve MGEU members are being impacted alongside three Manitoba Nurses’ Union members and two non-union staff.
"These are workers that have families in Brandon — their spouses, their partners are in Brandon, so they’re very very upset that they are going to lose their jobs and that the service they’re offering isn’t going to be there," Gawronsky said. "Working Manitobans are spending Manitobans."
Brandon Chamber of Commerce Terry Burgess said that any job loss will negatively impact its affected community, and that this is no exception.
"It’s always upsetting to see this kind of thing happening," he said, adding that he expects to see more announcements like this in the coming months, given the provincial government’s recent efforts to brace the public for tight budget conditions.
Perplexed by this cut in particular, Gawronsky said that the Canadian Blood Services’ shift out of Westman doesn’t align well with their constant efforts to bring in more donors.
"We’re kind of waiting to see what’s going to happen," she said. "We don’t feel this is in the best interest of Brandon or the folks in Brandon."
Matsumoto said that their lessened Westman presence won’t affect their ability to provide blood to hospitals, affirming that "patients will not be impacted by this decision."
She added that the Westman rollback of services should not reflect poorly on staff, volunteers or the "great" donors that they have, who will be mailed notices about the impending closure in the near future.
"We really appreciate, of course, the great individuals who supported our clinics through the years," she said, later adding that she hopes they find their way to Brandon mobile clinics come June 15, or that they find another means of contributing.
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