Catherine Sloot

Blood on the water: Changes allow clinic to use B.C. Ferries for shipping

The Canadian Blood Services (CBS) clinic on Saanich Road is about to make blood donations even more valuable

Blood donors in Greater Victoria know that there’s a lot riding on their donation. And soon their blood will be riding on something else: the nightly 9 p.m. ferry to Tsawwassen.

The Canadian Blood Services (CBS) clinic on Saanich Road is about to make blood donations even more valuable. However, doing so will mean the collection bags can no longer be shipped by plane.

Later this year the clinic will switch to a new system that can better collect platelets, vital for helping cancer patients around the province.

“This will have a dramatic impact on people’s lives,” said Catherine Sloot, partnership specialist with the blood service. Chemotherapy treatments can result in a loss of platelets, which help form clots or scabs on cut or broken skin.

Donated blood is flown to Vancouver where it is broken down in a centrifuge into multiple products, including red blood cells, plasma-based components, and platelets. The latter separates into a layer known as the buffy coat.

“Platelets only have a shelf life of five days. So the faster we can collect the (platelet-heavy) buffy coat … and get it to hospitals, the better,” Sloot said.

The new system essentially refines how blood is stored, allowing the platelets a better chance of survival while being transported to Vancouver. The existing method favours red blood cell survival – blood donations are stored around 4 C, nearly 20 degrees colder than the temperature at which platelets should be stored.

But the changes have logistical implications for distribution down the line. To better ensure platelets don’t perish on the trip to the CBS laboratory in Vancouver, Saanich clinic employee Sean Kenny will see changes to how he ships blood.

Instead of packing styrofoam coolers with icepacks and blood bags, and sending them across the water every evening on a chartered flight, CBS is investing in refrigerator trucks with elaborate cooling trays. This will help keep the blood stored in the most opportune environment before it’s centrifuged at the Vancouver lab.

Kenny will still make a nightly run up to Sidney with the blood – laid out on the trays – but now he’ll give the donations to a CBS employee from the mainland, who’ll drive them onto the ferry.

“We’re used to change at this place. We work within our standard operating procedures to ensure we’re caring for the integrity of the blood in the best way possible,” Kenny said. “This is a really fluid operation – no pun intended.”

The changes will also represent a financial savings in the long run, as it’ll cost significantly less to take the ferry than it is to fly two dozen boxes of blood every night.

“This is not the reason we’re doing it, but it is a more cost-effective method,” Sloot said. “It’s more about taking a positive step to fine-tune the way that a unit of blood is being used.”

The red blood cells are used to help accident victims, surgical patients, and people with anaemia. Plasma is typically used to treat burn and trauma victims.

The only change donors will notice is the clinic’s operating hours, which start one hour earlier starting April 9. The clinic, located at 3449 Saanich Rd., will be open 10:30 a.m. to 6:15 p.m. on Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Thursdays, as well as on alternating Saturdays from 9:30 a.m. to 4:15 p.m.

Mark Stefanson, vice-president of public affairs with B.C. Ferries, says the company will appreciate the steady business from CBS, especially on a sailing that isn’t typically busy.

“We’re really, really pleased that Canadian Blood Services has chosen us as their mechanism of transport,” Stefanson said. He added that the 9 p.m. Swartz Bay-Tsawwassen ferry is rarely affected by cancellations.

Sloot hopes the earlier hours will benefit the donors, too, and allow businesses and schools, which donate en masse, to better accommodate donating into their schedule.

“There is always a need for blood donors. There’s nowhere else to get it,” Sloot said.

To register to donate or volunteer, call 1-888-2-DONATE or visit

Just Posted

Women’s Expo seeks to empower women this weekend

Victoria Women’s Expo set for Saturday and Sunday at Pearkes Recreation Centre

Major expansion coming to Royal Bay Secondary

Province will build space for 600 more students on same site

Colwood wins Victoria Flower Count for a five-peat

The 43rd annual Flower Count had over three billion blossoms counted in total

Langford fundraiser for kidney disease is a success

Maureen Hobbs thinks B.C. Transplant says it best: “Live life. Pass it on.”

Preschool group helps release fish into Glen Lake

The number of fish released correlates to the number of fish caught per year

Vancouver Island’s Best Videos of the Week

A look at some of the best video stories from the past week ending March 16, 2018

Lilia Zaharieva wants to share her medical good fortune

UVic student wants treatment for cystic fibrosis made available for all

Canadian survivors, supporters rally against proposed ’60s Scoop settlement

Some have accused the government of underestimating the number of survivors

Women’s Expo seeks to empower women this weekend

Victoria Women’s Expo set for Saturday and Sunday at Pearkes Recreation Centre

Nordic athlete Arendz to be Canada’s flagbearer at Paralympic closing ceremony

The biathlete and cross-country skier from Hartsville has raced to five medals in Pyeongchang

Salmon Arm community cheers on Natalie Wilkie as she wins first gold medal

Local skier tops the podium in 7.5km race at the PyeongChang Paralympics

Experts: Society has a role in trying to prevent domestic violence

Experts are speaking out following the murder of a woman and her son in Ontario

RV David Thompson unveiled in Victoria’s Inner Harbour

Parks Canada research vessel part of billion-dollar environmental investment

Northern lights chasers in Canada discover new type named ‘Steve’

Phenomenon linked to a powerful current created by charged particles in Earth’s upper atmosphere

Most Read