SUDBURY -- While the COVID-19 pandemic has delayed the opening of Sudbury's new plasma donation centre, officials are working hard to make sure it doesn't impact donations.

While construction continues at the new facility, work has also begun to retrofit the old Canadian Blood Services facility on Barrydowne Road, so it can collect plasma donations until the new location is ready.

"We worked very hard to do this," said Jean-Paul Bedard, vice-president of plasma donations for Canadian Blood Services. "We had to do some retrofitting of our facility on Barrydowne, but ultimately it's to meet the needs of Canadian patients.

"There are thousands of patients in Canada that need products that are manufactured with this plasma and we didn't want to let them down."

Canadian Blood Service's new plasma collection centre, located on Lasalle Boulevard, was scheduled to open in August. Restrictions put in place due to the pandemic have pushed back the opening date to next year, making the retrofits necessary.

Bedard said thousands of Canadians rely on plasma donations. One of those is nine-year-old Heydan Morrison, who resides in Northern Ontario.

"He was diagnosed with a primary immunodeficiency called common variable immunodeficiency with hypogammaglobinemia … just before he was three," said Shannon Morrison, Heydan's mother.

Due to his condition, Heydan receives plasma donations every three to four weeks.

"We kind of plan our lives around it because it has to be done and it's a monthly thing," said Shannon. "So we plan our holidays around it. Usually if we're going to travel at all we need to get him topped up before we leave."

Plasma makes up about 55 per cent of our blood. When separated, it is a yellow liquid that contains proteins and other compounds that help with body functions, fight infections and it helps collect and carry waste to the liver and kidneys. Plasma is commonly given to trauma, burn and shock patients, as well as people with severe liver disease or multiple clotting factor deficiencies.

The facility in Sudbury will be the first of its kind in Canada and is part of the organization's broader plan to increase its supply of plasma.

"The amount of plasma that we have under Canadian control, what we call our sufficiency levels, are significantly too low," Bedard said. "We need to increase our plasma collection so that we become less dependent on products that are manufactured by plasma that tends to be collected in the United States."

Set to be approximately double the size of the previous facility, it will also have room to freeze plasma on site, a critical component of this type of donation.

But for donors, Bedard said to expect a relatively similar experience.

"The difference with a (plasma) donation, it's a little longer than a blood donation," said Bedard. "The advantage, though, is because we're giving you back your red blood cells, you can increase your frequency of donation. You can donate on a weekly basis."

Anyone willing to donate plasma will be able to do so at the old facility beginning in August.