March 30, 2020
Albertans' blood and plasma is not for sale
While health care workers and communities are struggling to support each other through the COVID-19 crisis, private blood brokers are trying to profit off of this dire situation. The Alberta government lobbyist registry shows that a big pharma interest group that represents the private for-profit blood industry (Plasma Protein Therapeutics Association represented by Santis Health Inc), is attempting to persuade the government to repeal the Voluntary Blood Donation Act, which bans for-payment blood clinics in the province.
The Voluntary Blood Donation Act, passed in 2017, ensures that all blood and plasma collected in Alberta is used for patients in the province and across Canada. If repealed, it would ensure that tens of thousands of units of much needed blood plasma are shipped out of the province to global markets, putting the entire Canadian supply chain at risk. Ontario, Quebec and BC also have similar laws in place.
“While Albertans focus on the COVID-19 pandemic and deal with the economic impact this major health crisis will have, our government continues to meet with those who are lobbying to privatize and further erode a vital component of our health care system, one that saves Canadian lives,” indicates Sandra Azocar, Executive Director of Friends of Medicare.
The sale and purchase of plasma is a multi-million dollar business around the world and a fertile ground for profit. Private blood brokers are notorious for exploiting poor and vulnerable populations who are in desperate need of cash and will often set up collection sites in areas where people are the most economically vulnerable.
The World Health Organization advises that all donations of blood and plasma should be collected through a national voluntary system in order to secure the supply chain for patients. “Canadian Blood Services needs all of the donors they can get to ensure Canadian patients are cared for, “ says Kat Lanteigne, Executive Director of BloodWatch.org. “Our Canadian blood and plasma donors are the foundation of our supply chain. Allowing blood brokers into the country would threaten this fundamentally.”
During a major pandemic, when blood donations are needed most, the government is considering selling blood internationally to the highest bidder. Putting the blood system in any danger of competition will result in less blood and plasma available to the public system, at great cost to Albertans. This is a time when we must insist on federal and provincial legislation to ban pay-for-plasma clinics in Canada, in order to protect this scarce resource. To permit these clinics would be a major step towards the privatization of an essential public good. Now, more than ever, we must not allow the interests of private for-profit plasma donation centers to be put before the needs of Canadians.
There is a simple message here, Minister Shandro: don’t jeopardize our health care. Albertans deserve assurance that our public health care will be protected and expanded at a time when it has become ever more evident that we need a strong publicly funded and publicly delivered health system. What we don’t need in this time of crisis, is for our government to sell off the veins of the people of Alberta to the highest bidder.
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