Blood clinic on wheels launches in Toronto

Natisha Seenundun donated her blood in Ontario for the first time last week.

And she did it right in front of her office building at Richmond Street West.

“I work in this building,” she said. “I heard that there was a blood clinic and came down to register (for donation).”

By blood clinic, Seenundun meant Toronto’s first BloodMobile, which was launched by Canadian Blood Services (CBS) last Tuesday. Now it is travelling around GTA to collect blood from donors where it is convenient for them.

In the very compact carriage, donors go through exactly the same procedures as they did in a regular blood clinic. It usually takes 40 minutes to complete the entire proceeding.

“By coming to people, we are making blood donation as convenient as possible,” said Stephen A. Harding, development executive director of CBS.

CBS is currently working with companies, shopping malls, apartment buildings and schools to send the BloodMobile to these locations in hopes of expanding its reach in the GTA.

“About three-quarters of donors make their appointments ahead, one quarter of them just pass by and walk in,” Linda Mullins, a supervisor working on the bloodmobile, said.

“It’s quite convenient,” said Seenundun, who used to donate blood regularly when she lived in Montreal. “I probably would donate more often (because of the existence of BloodMobile).”

Besides making it easier for regular donors, CBS hopes the BloodMobile will make blood donation more visible, in particular to those communities traditionally not exposed to it.

“Many immigrants are not familiar with Canada’s institution, or their religious cultures don’t encourage them to give blood,” said Len Rosen, Community Development Coordinator at CBS. “The BloodMobile gives us the way to tell the story about blood service and get people to look at donating blood.”

For drawing in more new donors, CBS has been visiting different communities, such as recreation centres and Buddhist temples, to hand out flyers and answer people’s questions. Before BloodMobile’s official launch, they had a test run in a recreational centre in Scarborough.

“Seventy per cent of them were first-time donors, and many were from diverse communities like Tamil, Indian, Pakistani, Chinese. It was a very gratifying turn out,” Rosen said.

In its first week, the BloodMobile already had an edge on the regular blood clinics. Opening three or four hours per day, it is capable of collecting 35 to 37 units of blood on a daily basis. CBS estimates the vehicle will ultimately generate 7,000 units of blood a year.

Toronto’s is the second BloodMobile in Canada. CBS brought in the first one in Ottawa in 2001, and they are launching the third one in Vancouver next year, with likely more to follow in GTA.

“This is a test,” Harding said. “If it goes well, we will do more.”