Albertans' blood and plasma supply under threat
Friends of Medicare have learned that in the coming days. UCP MLA Tany Yao plans to table a private members bill, Bill 204: Voluntary Blood Donations Repeal Act. With this bill, MLA Yao intends to repeal Bill 3: Voluntary Blood Donations Act, which was put into place to protect and enshrine blood and plasma as public resources under law, and to prohibit them from being treated as a market-based commodity.
Prior to the implementation of Bill 3 in 2017, Friends of Medicare and BloodWatch presented then-Health Minister Sarah Hoffman with a petition with over 15,000 signatures calling for an end to for-profit, donor-paid blood plasma collection clinics. Albertans know that blood and plasma are a vital medical necessity that is critical to all of our lives. If this bill were repealed, it would ensure that tens of thousands of units of much needed blood plasma could now be shipped out of the province to global markets, putting the entire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.
Back in March, Friends of Medicare warned that private blood brokers had been lobbying the Alberta government, and attempting to persuade them to repeal Bill 3. While health care workers and communities have been struggling to support each other through the COVID-19 crisis, private blood brokers have been trying to profit off of this dire situation.
“It is shameful and appalling to see this pandemic used to further bring profit into our health care system, especially in a way that directly threatens our blood supply,” indicates Sandra Azocar, Executive Director of Friends of Medicare. “Given its political bent on privatizing Alberta’s public resources, it is not surprising that our current government sees no problem with commodifying our blood, and opening up our province to this huge, exploitative, multi-billion dollar market of plasma sale.”
Canadian Blood Services has been clear that supporting profitable blood brokers will not help with Canadian supply, and that it will not reduce our reliance on American paid plasma. Last May, Dr. Graham Sher, the head of Canadian Blood Services, along with his counterpart from Hema-Quebec, testified in front of the Canadian Senate to the federal government that private plasma collectors operating in this country do nothing to secure the supply chain for Canadians. Blood brokers make their profit on the international market, where they compete to sell their plasma to the highest bidder. In contrast, every single collection within our publicly-funded blood system is guaranteed to go to Canadian patients.
Allowing for-profit brokers in Alberta will only introduce unnecessary competition to voluntary donations, threatening our blood and plasma supply in the midst of a global pandemic. Friends of Medicare is calling for this private member’s bill to be voted down at committee level. Our legislators have an ethical responsibility to Albertans, and not to the market. We cannot allow dogma and ideology to jeopardize a vital medical necessity on which all Albertans and Canadians rely.
We further demand that Health Canada revoke licenses for the practice of paid blood donations and work to ensure the integrity of our voluntary collection system.
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