Russell Thiessen has been doing his part to try to prevent Brandon’s Canadian Blood Services Donor Clinic from closure and he’s calling on local politicians and public officials to do the same.
Thiessen has been donating blood for 20 years, driving approximately 50 kilometres from the RM of Sifton just to make his regular donations.
He is following in the footsteps of his father, David, who has been donating blood for more than 50 years.
The two travelled to Brandon Wednesday evening to make a donation along with Thiessen’s brothers, Robert and Joseph — a protest against the Canadian Blood Service’s decision to shut down the clinic and the mobile clinics around Westman.
"If they’re removing the mobile clinics from the rural areas as well as closing down the Brandon site, I think they’re going to greatly impact the number of people who are going to be able to donate," Thiessen said.
"If they are coming out every other Thursday with the mobile clinic, that removes a lot of flexibility from scheduling my blood donations. It’s definitely not going to be as convenient for myself. I feel every other donor is going to deal with the same issue."
The staff — who received a 90-day termination notice earlier this month — made the clinic feel like home, Thiessen said, adding it is clear they care about each donation and the difference it’s making in someone’s life.
"I feel very welcome when I go there, they know me by name, ask how life is, how the family is doing and how things are on the farm," Thiessen said. "The staff there are like family. It’s clear that it’s more than just a job for them."
The Brandon office’s impending closure comes as the result of not hitting targets for a number of years, as well as the Canadian Blood Services aiming to better centralize its operations.
Brandon-Souris Conservative MP Larry Maguire has been vocally opposed to the closures, calling for the decision to be reversed.
"I met with representatives from Canadian Blood Services in my Parliamentary office to stress the need for the Brandon clinic to remain open and for rural mobile clinics to continue … I reiterated my position that they should reverse their decision to permanently close the clinic and layoff the staff," Maguire said in a statement. "Since the Canadian Blood Services made the unilateral decision to close the clinic, many donors have highlighted concerns with the current location and the lack of days the clinic was open for blood donations. These issues were raised in our discussions and I believe they should be further explored."
Thiessen said if more representatives from the community stand against the closure he believes it will make a difference.
"I want to challenge Mayor Rick Chrest and other local mayors and reeves to go to Association of Manitoba Municipalities and ask them to lobby Canadian Blood Services to keep the mobile clinics running," Thiessen said. "I think that this can be a positive outcome if everyone is willing to work together to make that happen."
By keeping blood donations and the clinics in the public eye, Thiessen said he also hopes more people will see the opportunity and importance to donate.
"It’s a life giving substance that our bodies are constantly making," Thiessen said. "It’s an honour to pass that along to people that need it."
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