Alberta Can and Should Ban Pay-for-Plasma

Alberta can and should ban pay-for-plasma

Canadian Blood Services (CBS) aren’t doing their job, so it’s time the Alberta government step in.

Canadian Blood Services are in the news again. You might have seen the concerns raised over the private pay-for-plasma clinic opening in Saskatchewan. Well now CBS are going one step further, suggesting that "competition" may require them to also start paying for blood.

What's strange about this is that we know in 2015 CBS closed three permanent clinics and discontinued mobile blood collection in sixteen other communities. Calls a year ago to re-open Thunder Bay’s mobile collection were turned down because “new surgical techniques and the evolution of blood replacement products have also led to less demand for both plasma and whole blood”.

This flies in the face of the justification now being given for paid incentives for donors, and we are reminded of other areas of health care where the public system is undermined to pave the way for privatization.

Canadian Blood Services was established after the tainted blood scandal, with the responsibility to manage Canada’s blood and blood products system. The scandal also resulted in the Krever Inquiry which recommended against paid donors. The World Health Organization has also recommended countries move towards a 100% voluntary system by 2020.

These recent actions by Canadian Blood Services are in the opposite direction of these recommendations. While they have a responsibility to find solutions, organizations have recommended re-opening closed clinics, and working to establish more plasma clinics through the country.

In the meantime, we in Alberta can take action to help protect our blood supply and stop this backwards move towards pay-for-blood schemes.

Quebec and Ontario have passed laws banning paid plasma, will Nova Scotia be next?

In 2014 a bill banning pay for plasma introduced in the Ontario legislature was passed with support of all parties. Ontario Health Minister Eric Hoskins said “This decision to prohibit payment for blood and plasma donations will in no way reduce the supply or the availability of blood and blood products for Ontarians. But it will protect the integrity of our current blood donation system – a system that works.”

Now in Nova Scotia, NDP Health Critic Dave Wilson is re-introducing a bill to protect their blood services. When originally introduced in 2014 he had said, “We need to ensure private interests don’t try to profit off what is a crucial commodity in our health care system.”

Alberta can show leadership

Given the financial situation in Alberta, it can be hard for this government to find good news stories. A ban on paid plasma will not require a major investment in Alberta funds, but it would be a welcome sign that our province takes the recommendations of the tainted blood scandal inquiry and the World Health Organization seriously.

Our health system is based on principles of care and service, and falls short when marketization and profit become the motive. Albertans are proud voluntary donors. We can do more to promote the need in our system, and explore and adopt methods to improve our voluntary collection. At the same time, a provincial ban will prevent us from moving in the wrong direction away from a 100% voluntary system.

We’ve been encouraged by comments made in the media by Health Minister Sarah Hoffman. We sent an Open Letter to her, and we encourage you to send a letter of your own.

 

Sample letter you can use to send to

health.minister@gov.ab.ca

 

Dear Honorable Minister of Health,

I am writing as an Albertan concerned about the direction Canadian Blood Services is taking our blood supply. The Krever Inquiry created after the tainted blood scandal recommends against paid blood collection, and the World Health Organizations recommends 100% voluntary blood collection by 2020.

Ontario and Quebec made the right decision to pass legislation protecting our voluntary blood collection systems and banning paid collection. The Nova Scotia NDP are introducing a bill to establish a ban in their home province.

Alberta has the opportunity to be a leader in Western Canada and do the same. It’s the right thing to do. Not only would this send a strong signal that the voluntary spirit of Albertans is being supported by our government, it would show advocates in BC and Saskatchewan that positive political action on this issue is possible. I hope to hear a commitment from the Alberta government to pass an act to protect our voluntary blood supply.

Sincerely,