Our Public Blood System Still Isn’t Protected

Our Public Blood System Still Isn’t Protected

How far will Canadian Plasma Resources expand operations?

Presenting petitions calling for the ban of blood & plasma in Alberta to Minister Hoffman on the steps of the Legislature with Kat Lanteigne of BloodWatch.org and Marle Roberts with CUPE Alberta.

On March 23 the Alberta NDP government passed the Voluntary Blood Donations Act on third reading, recognizing the role of Canadian Blood Services (CBS) as our sole not-for-profit collector and provider of blood and plasma. The bill introduced by Health Minister Sarah Hoffman banned the sale of blood and plasma in Alberta, allowing CBS to focus on its ambitious plans to more than double voluntary plasma collection. This will reduce Canada’s reliance on the American paid plasma market, where vulnerable populations are taken advantage of to help line the profit margins of a billion dollar industry.

Voluntary Donors Get Drawn Away to For-Profit Brokers

BloodWatch.org recently obtained through an information request a letter from then CBS Board Chair Leah Hollins that explains some of the concerns with the expansion of paid plasma:

“While we initially believed paid and unpaid donation systems could coexist to some degree in Canada, our understanding has evolved with new evidence and changing dynamics. And while the local challenges brought about by the presence of a small for-profit operation can likely be managed, it is the emergence of additional for-profit plasma collection sites, particularly larger-scale operations by experienced enterprises, which is of specific concern. Evidence from countries such as the U.S. and Hungary shows unpaid blood donors have been drawn away to become paid plasma donors. We cannot risk having this happen in Canada, and we are already seeing indication the for-profit collector in Saskatoon is attempting to recruit regular unpaid whole blood donors who would otherwise donate to Canadian Blood Serivces. (emphasis added)

Discriminatory Policies Hurt the CBS Brand

Our Executive Director Sandra Azocar presenting to the Canadian Blood Services Board on June 22.

Friends of Medicare had the chance to present to the Canadian Blood Services open board meeting in Edmonton on June 22. We highlighted the good work being done in Alberta, but also pointed out that improving voluntary collections means removing barriers for donors. Canadian Blood Services discriminatory deferral of men and trans women having sex with men should be removed.

We hear regularly from people who support public health care who have a negative impression of CBS because of these policies. Countries like Italy, Spain, South Africa, Argentina and Chile have removed theirs. Current screening processes are more thorough than in the past. It makes no more sense to prohibit people based on orientation and gender than say banning low income donors.

CBS should reverse this policy and remove discrimination, which should attract more donors to the system.

Will BC Be Next to Ban Paid Plasma?

Adam Lynes-Ford with the BC Health Coalition speaks to media outside the BC Legislature with Kat Lanteigne with BloodWatch.org
Photo credit BC Health Coalition.

Alberta’s legislation has us joining Ontario and Quebec who already have similar bans in place. Canadian Plasma Resources is looking to expand their for-profit paid plasma operations into BC as well. Their progress may be halted with a change in government. The BC NDP while in opposition had introduced a private members bill to ban paid plasma there, and were supported by the BC Hemophiliac Society, the BC Health Coalition and BloodWatch.org .

However, with the BC NDP in a minority position, it is unknown whether the BC Green party or any BC Liberal MLAs would support such a ban. Federal Green Leader Elizabeth May has said she supports the ban, and with a paid collection site now open in Moncton, New Brunswick Green Leader David Coon has said that people should not be paid for their plasma there.

With Canadian Plasma Resources (CPR) now operating two collection sites, one in Saskatoon and now Moncton, there are growing concerns about the impact they will have and how much further they will expand.

If BC does the right thing and bans paid plasma, there will still be 6 provinces and three territories CPR can expand into.  With a national blood system, unnecessary private competition can impact even those provinces that have taken steps to protect the voluntary system.

As CBS has indicated, the private collection site in Saskatoon is impacting their whole blood collection in the city.

Federal Action is Needed to Protect the Voluntary Blood System

This is why we still need action on this issue from our Federal Minister of Health Dr. Jane Philpott and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. Our country’s voluntary blood system should be safeguarded, and the focus in all provinces should be to support CBS’s plans to greatly increase voluntary collection.

The Canadian Health Coalition has been calling Minister Philpott’s office regularly since March, with none of their calls being returned, and they are seeing delays of their Access To Information request.

We need to continue our advocacy to the Federal Government to protect the voluntary system. BloodWatch.org has a sample letter you can send to Minister Philpott.

You can also look up who your Member of Parliament is by your postal code here, and copy them on your letter. Please share any responses you get with us at [email protected] – especially if they are from your Liberal MP.

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