13 June 2022

First responders answer the call to rescue blood supplies

| Claire Fenwicke
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Five men hold up signs, including `I gave blood today'.

Here to help: Minister for Police and Emergency Services Mick Gentleman, ACT Emergency Services Agency assistant commissioner corporate Wayne Phillips, ACT State Emergency Service chief officer Anthony Draheim, ACT Rural Fire Service chief officer Rohan Scott and ACT Fire & Rescue chief officer Matthew Mavity. Photo: Supplied.

Winter this year brings with it a triple threat to blood donations: influenza, colds and COVID-19.

In a bid to rescue Red Cross Lifeblood’s supplies, Canberra’s emergency services have laid out their arms to donate to the cause.

It’s all part of the Emergency Service Blood Challenge, in which emergency services from each state and territory go head to head to see who can donate the most to shore up supply.

Lifeblood spokesperson Sally Gavin said with cold and flu appointment cancellations the highest they had been in three years, new blood donors were needed to join emergency services in saving lives.

“The Emergency Service Blood Challenge is critical to helping the one in three Australians who will need donated blood this winter,” she said.

“With the cold and flu season already ramping up, we need to bolster our donor ranks now.

“People who donate blood are also critical to saving the lives of those in our community, and l urge people to follow the lead of our wonderful emergency services workers.”

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Winter has always posed a seasonal challenge, with one in two donors cancelling their appointments due to illness.

The Emergency Services Blood Challenge will see police, ambulance, firefighters and emergency response workers from around Canberra battle it out to see who can give the most blood – with a target of 560 donations and 1500 lives saved.

ACT Policing donated the most blood last year and in 2020, but deputy chief police officer Peter Crozier emphasised it was a friendly competition with the aim to save lives.

“As first responders, police know better than anyone the trauma that can be experienced after a collision or assault,” he said.

“Our officers regularly attend incidents where someone will require a blood donation, so we know every donation makes a difference and is vital to survival following trauma.”

A woman in a chair holds up a sign `I gave plasma today'.

ACT Policing’s Melissa Shuttleworth, from Woden Police Station, donates plasma as part of the challenge. Photo: Supplied.

ACT Emergency Services Agency commissioner Georgeina Whelan said the teams were once again excited to challenge each other for a worthy cause.

“Our emergency services understand the need for blood and plasma donations and are excited to take on ACT Policing this year to challenge our crews to donate as much as possible,” she said.

“Life-giving donations don’t just save a life, they make a genuine difference to the patients and their families. Every time you give blood, you can save up to three lives.”

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The community has been invited to get involved by rolling up its sleeves to donate blood or plasma, and nominate which emergency service to support in the challenge.

Policing and Emergency Services Minister Mick Gentleman said Red Cross Lifeblood needed blood each and every day so that health services could continue to save lives, but it all relied on the goodwill of people who took the time to roll up their sleeves.

“While the need for blood never stops, with the cold weather, COVID-19 and flu season upon us, securing enough blood donations is particularly challenging at the moment,” he said.

“I thank our emergency services personnel for their continued service to our community in stepping up to give blood, and for their sense of fun in doing so through a friendly competition.”

Those who want to donate are reminded to wait one week after recovering from a cold, and two weeks from the flu.

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Last time I donated blood I was told it was sent to Sydney. Looks like Canberra is just a feeder for the other capitals. Still don’t know why there is no compensation for it. If it paid $40 a bag then at least those on social welfare will be able to earn their keep as well.

Peter Graves9:17 pm 14 Jun 22

Blood donated in Canberra is sent to Sydeny for processing – the site is out near the airport.
Details are here – https://nata.com.au/accredited-organisation/sydney-processing-centre-transplantation-immunogenetics-18808-22698/

Volume processing is part of the reason. There are similar centres in Melbourne, Brisbane and Perth, while blood and plasma are collected more widely than just there.

Peter Graves8:30 am 14 Jun 22

As police officer Melissa Shuttleworth knows, plasma donations matter too. One donation makes 18 different products. One of my whole blood donations late one Saturday night in 1986 saved the life of a newly-born baby.

Other lives can currently depend on these donations. Not just in times of emergency. Australia’s blood donations support our national health system always.

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