Canadian Blood Services: Setting New Standards For Organs, Tissues, And Stem Cells
Education and Advocacy What our work means to you.
No matter where you live in Canada, you deserve equal access to lifesaving treatments and transplants. Canadian Blood Services supports and unites provincial organ donation programs and manages the supply of blood products and stem cells (outside of Quebec).
Through Canadian Blood Services’ collaboration with provincial and territorial governments, and with health delivery programs and professionals — including donation and transplantation communities — Canada now has a well-integrated system of organ donation and transplantation programs and services. A national approach provides the consistency that can sometimes be lacking when provincial systems are working in isolation. For the organ and tissue, stem cell, and blood donation systems to be truly effective in every part of the country, we need a collaborative approach. It’s about people working together to keep finding the best possible solutions for patients.
Here’s what an integrated system means to you:
Better access to organs and tissues
A national approach to organ and tissue programs gives a patient living in New Brunswick the same chance as a patient in Ontario to get the organ they urgently need. As part of our role in organ donation and transplantation, we developed the Canadian Transplant Registry. This shared service includes the National Organ Waitlist (NOW). Patients waiting and ready for transplantation are listed on NOW and provincial programs use NOW to find a match in real time.
This Canadian approach is also working for the Kidney Paired Donation program. Nearly 300 transplants have occurred because altruistic donors and donors who were not a match for a loved one were willing to donate their kidney to save someone else; this in turn facilitated an exchange and a transplant for their loved one.
Canadian Blood Services supports the development of standardized practices for donation and transplantation, such as critical testing methods to improve donor and patient matching. Collaboration among Canadian laboratory experts has made clinical improvements that are lowering the rate of acute rejection after transplant.
Our national collaborative leading practices are helping set international standards for the medical, legal, and ethical conduct of organ and tissue donation. Our recommendation to introduce donor specialists in hospitals to promote organ donation and refer donors is based on learnings from other countries. This specialist role, which continues to be implemented in many Canadian jurisdictions, contributes to donation activity and is modeled after high-performing programs internationally.
A strong focus on finding the right match for stem cell recipients
As Canada’s population grows, so does the demand for stem cell transplants. At the same time, our population is becoming more ethnically diverse. What this means is that we need more stem cells from ethnically diverse donors. Through our OneMatch Stem Cell and Marrow Network, we are focusing recruitment efforts on people from diverse backgrounds. We are also encouraging males between the ages of 17 and 35 to donate. Research shows this group of donors provides the best possible outcomes for transplant patients.
Umbilical cord blood is a rich source of life-saving stem cells. Cord blood donated by mothers at the time of their child’s birth provides more possibilities for a stem cell match. To build a national public cord blood bank, Canadian Blood Services is raising $12.5 million in charitable donations towards the total combined investment of $48 million, which was announced by the provincial and territorial ministries of health (except Québec) in March 2011. We are looking to all Canadians to help raise the remaining $3.3 million to build this important health-care resource.
Improved patient outcomes by leveraging expertise
Canadian Blood Services is a unique, pan-Canadian model that ensures patients have equal and timely access to blood and blood products, no matter where they live in the country. With governments and other health-care partners, we are now leveraging this expertise in transfusion medicine to help improve patient access and outcomes in transplantation.
For example, we provided seed funding for the Canadian National Transplant Research Program with the Canadian Institutes of Health Research. This national network was established to advance research, innovation, and transplantation practices for organs, tissues, and stem cells.
We owe our success to date to the thousands of donors, researchers, health-care partners, volunteers, and staff who dedicate their time and efforts to this goal of ongoing improvement. Our work is changing health care in Canada for the better; however, we can and must continue to evolve and do better because people’s lives depend on it.
There is one key partner that is essential to ensuring all of this work succeeds, and that partner is you. As an organ, tissue, stem cell or blood donor, your selfless gifts are critical to patient care. I encourage you to visit blood.ca to learn more about how you can play an important role in Canada’s lifesaving network.
Thousands of patients are still waiting for their organ, tissue or stem cell donor. By continuing our collaboration and doing together what no one jurisdiction can do alone, we can give even more Canadians a second chance.