Letter to the Editor

rhalogo Statement of Medical Chief of Staff – Regional Health Authority B concerning the impending Closure of the Canadian Blood Services Processing Centre and Laboratory located in Saint John, New Brunswick.

Dear Editor,

As the Chief of the Medical Staff of Regional Health Authority B I would like to bring attention to the quality of care issues that may impact the health and safety of the patients of Regional Health Authority B. This health authority includes approximately 600, 0000 patients in New Brunswick.

The impending closure of the Canadian Blood Services Saint John distribution and production facility will put at risk the health and perhaps even the lives of some patients in our province. The long distance transit of urgently needed blood products to critical ill patients would be at best tenuous given our weather, geography and distance.

The Saint John Distribution Centre has provided excellent, efficient and prompt service to the patients of New Brunswick for many years. As a family doctor who treats ill patients in the Fredericton area I frequently require blood products for my patients. I have never had the need to complain nor to my knowledge have my colleagues in Fredericton complained about the service provided by the Saint John facility. Therefore, as physicians our concerns are:

1. Access to necessary blood products such as red blood cells, plasma and platelets have been to date excellent in New Brunswick.

2. Most blood products needed urgently have a short shelf life measured in hours to days. The longer the distance the less the efficiency of the blood product.

3. These products are needed urgently within minutes to hours to prevent bleeding complications or blood replacement in cancer patients, trauma patients, cardiac surgery patients and patients with non cancer blood disorders.

4. The physicians and institutions of Regional Health Authority B have been extremely satisfied with the prompt response of the Saint John Blood Services to our patients needs.

5. As New Brunswick has been called upon in the recent past to provide blood products to Halifax we are unsure Nova Scotia can supply us adequately with needed blood products in a timely manner.

6. The Saint John processing centre and laboratory centre have been on the cutting edge of new technology in the provision of blood products. The facility is known to be extremely innovative for many years. To dismantle an excellent service is of great concern to all health care providers including physicians, nurses and laboratory technicians.

7. New Brunswick will be the only province in Canada (except for PEI) to not have its own processing centre. What will happen if the Nova Scotia system is in trouble? In light of weather problems, transport problems, closure of the Cobequid pass etc. What guarantees do we in New Brunswick have that Halifax will be able to service our needs for blood products or even consider the needs of New Brunswickers as their first priority?

New Brunswick in the Saint John Centre has been a net exporter of blood products and supplies. The Saint John Regional Hospital, literally next door to the Canadian Blood Services building in Saint John, (this was not by accident!), is the major centre in New Brunswick for tertiary health care including heart surgery, cancer treatment and most recently has been designated as the Provincial Trauma Centre. As well, the Saint John Regional Hospital provides excellent hematology (blood disease), kidney disease and neurosurgical care. Moncton has been extremely happy with the provision of blood products from Saint John which are necessary for their primary, secondary and tertiary care services as well.

Moncton is a major center for trauma, surgical services and cancer services. Fredericton provides all secondary services and some tertiary care services which are dependent on rapid transport of necessary emergently needed blood products, as are Moncton and Saint John. It also must be recognized that blood products are used in every hospital in this province, small or large and platelets are just as necessary in communities like Waterville, St. Stephen or Miramichi City as they are in the major centers. The transport of these blood products throughout Region B has been a community effort provided by commercial bus services which are sensitized to the urgency of the task. As well, taxi services and even the RCMP have been wonderful conduits all working together with the Saint John Distribution Centre to service ill and injured New Brunswickers.

On behalf of the patients in Regional Health Authority B I ask the Canadian Blood Services to reconsider its decision to close the Saint John Processing Centre. I ask all of you who are concerned to influence decision makers at the Canadian Blood Services, and also Federal and Provincial politicians to educate themselves as to the practical implications that may well put New Brunswick patients at risk.


Tom Barry, MD FCFP (C)
Chief of Staff
Regional Health Authority – B