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Advocate petitions for blood donor clinic in qathet region

Retired paramedic believes region needs mobile unit
MOBILE CLINICS: Retired paramedic Glenn Holstine started a petition to give to Canadian Blood Services to show that the qathet community is interested in acquiring a mobile blood clinic in the region, and possibly establishing a permanent one in the future.

Until a personal emergency requires access to blood services, most people don't think about it. However, those who have needed a blood transfusion, because of an accident or illness, or know someone who has, soon realize that access to blood is a lifesaving matter.

qathet resident Glenn Holstine understands the importance of this service firsthand, having worked as a first responder for 36 years in the forestry and oil and gas sector. Holstine started a petition in September of 2023, collecting signatures to show Canadian Blood Services (CBS) that there is interest in the qathet region for a mobile blood-donor clinic.

Blood donation options

Right now, the closest place to donate blood is in Comox on Vancouver Island or Vancouver in the Lower Mainland. The blood used at qathet General Hospital is flown in. CBS collects blood and plasma for our public health-care system. Around 850,000 units of blood are collected each year across Canada.

"I donate regularly whenever I visit Vancouver Island or Vancouver," said Holstine. "But not everyone here [in qathet] has the ability to travel in order to give blood."

Responses from CBS to Holstine's many emails, he said, have been lackluster and templated.

Firsthand experience

"As a first responder I saw some bad accidents working in the Squamish Valley and because of certain injuries and situations sometimes there wasn't enough blood available," said Holstine. “This is dear to my heart, to know in Powell River we did have a mobile blood clinic up until the late 1980s early 1990s, but then there was the tainted blood scandal and the Red Cross stepped away because of a lawsuit."

Tainted blood incident

According to the Canadian Encyclopedia, at least 2,000 recipients of blood and blood products contracted HIV between 1980 and 1985. Another 30,000 transfusion recipients were infected with hepatitis C, a potentially debilitating liver disease, between 1980 and 1990. 

After a major public inquiry that ended in 1997, CBS, a not-for-profit charitable organization, became in charge of collecting, testing and manufacturing blood and plasma.

"I have talked to them [CBS] by phone a dozen times at least over the last seven years," said Holstine. "But they won't budge on their stance."

Local blood supply

Holstine believes if the public knew more about blood donation or lack thereof in their community, and how important it is to have a large supply available, they would welcome a mobile clinic here. 

"I know the collected blood must be processed and checked prior to being available for the hospital," said Holstine. "One of their reasons [for not collecting blood in qathet] was that it was too far to transport once blood was donated as it needs to be kept in a movement state otherwise it separates."

Holstine thinks the blood collected can be put on the same Pacific Coastal Airlines flight that delivers the blood in special containers to Powell River for the hospital here. 

"The donated blood can be sent by air and would arrive in Vancouver well within the time frame required for Canadian Blood Services to process our donations," said Holstine.

Although he is pressing for a mobile blood clinic in the qathet region, eventually he wants to have a more permanent blood donor centre set up.

"Powell River is growing and we need to be more self-sufficient," said Holstine. "If there is a major emergency, I don't believe we would have enough blood available."

MP and MLA aware

He indicated that North Island-Powell River MP Rachel Blaney is aware of the situation, as is Powell River-Sunshine Coast MLA Nicholas Simons. Holstine collected names on the petition he initially called, A Blood Donor Challenge, which is now officially called a Mobile Blood Donor Clinic petition.

Holstine said a few notable people in the qathet community have signed the petition including: Doctor Jacques du Toit (Marine Avenue clinic) and Dr.  Brittney Chisholm, who practices at Suncoast Integrated Health.

"Dr. Chisholm has all the certification to hold the Canadian Blood Services mobile clinic at her location," said Holstine. 

Blood services response 

In an email to Holstine, CBS stated: “Although we do not collect blood in Powell River, there are no impacts to how hospitals in the area receive blood and blood products. Patients in your community continue to receive the blood products they need at their local hospital when they need them.”

Holstine is not giving up. He continues to reach out to the public and hopes the petition, which officially ended on November 30, will have an impact. He said he will keep corresponding with CBS to advocate bringing a mobile clinic to qathet and other rural areas of the province.

Holstine believes residents here would step up and donate, given the opportunity, and that CBS is missing out on a population of potential blood donors.

"While we do not collect blood in Powell River, we are grateful for the show of support in your area,” stated CBS in the email to Holstine. “Donor centres and mobile blood events take place throughout British Columbia, and those who are eligible to donate may wish to do so the next time they are travelling.

Where to find a clinic

“The donor event locator on is a useful tool to help them find a donor centre nearby. People in Powell River can also join the national stem cell registry, register their intent to become an organ and tissue donor and/or make a one-time or recurring financial donation.”

To contact Holstine, email [email protected]

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