Voluntary Blood Donations Act Passes Third Reading!
On March 23, 2017 Bill 3, the Voluntary Blood Donations Act passed third reading in the Alberta Legislature, making Alberta the third province to ban the sale of blood & plasma.
It's important to note that despite misleading claims made by opposition politicians about its potential impact on supply, the bill exempts Canadian Blood Services. This ensures that while steps are being taken to greatly increase our voluntary collection they are still able to secure their existing supply of plasma derived products from the US as needed.
Canadian Blood Services has raised concerns on their ability to collect whole blood in Saskatoon now that they are competing for donors there, and has indicated they are not interested in purchasing from them. Their plans are for us to be less reliant on paid collection, not more. We know that in Ontario the same company did not seek permission from the province before setting up, and only by enshrining the ban in law were they able to stop them from operating there. The passing of Bill 3 in Alberta is a proactive step to avoid the problems Ontario faced and the issues arising now in Saskatchewan.
While a nearly identical bill crossed ideological lines and was passed unanimously in Ontario, the vote in Alberta was unfortunately split on partisan lines. Kudos to the NDP MLAs who recognize the recommendations of the Krever Inquiry into the tainted blood scandal, as well as those of the World Health Organization, the International Red Cross & Red Crescent, the European Blood Alliance, and the BC & Ontario Hemophilia societies who recommend against payment for plasma. Unfortunately not a single opposition member voted in favour of this important law.
Our campaign began last year on the news of Saskatoon opening a paid plasma collection site, and media reports that the for-profit company was looking to expand into Alberta.
We sent an open letter to Alberta Health Minister Sarah Hoffman, met with her to discuss the issue, and began our campaign to build support and educate the public. This included an online petition via SumOfUs & BloodWatch, and a second paper petition from CUPE Alberta & Friends of Medicare, gathering thousands of signatures to support voluntary collection.
We toured across the province to take the issue on the road. We were joined by Kat Lanteigne, Executive Director of BloodWatch.org representing tainted blood survivors and patients. We also had CUPE Alberta with us who represent many of the staff working for Canadian Blood Services.
During this tour MLAs and MPs of all parties were invited to listen and to speak. Busy schedules meant that not all could attend but we do thank those who did: Maria Fitzpatrick, Kim Schreiner, Heather Sweet, Dr. Bob Turner & Jon Carson - all from the NDP. A representative from NDP MP Linda Duncan's office was also able to attend. While Wildrose MLA and then Health Critic Drew Barnes was speaking in favour of subsidizing the expansion of a for-profit plasma collector, his office explicitly declined to attend our Medicine Hat meeting and explain his views.
We also spoke at meetings and conventions including HSAA, AUPE, UNA, the AFL & Edmonton's Punjabi Cultural Association.
Friends of Medicare members across the province then took time to email, phone, and book meetings with their MLAs. Our thanks go to MLAs David Shepherd, Erin Babcock, David Eggen, Michael Connolly & Craig Coolahan for taking time to meet with our members and hear their concerns.
Our attention now turns to our Federal Government. Our blood supply is national, and we can not allow it to be put at risk by poor decisions of provincial governments like Saskatchewan who allow unnecessary for-profit competition for donors. Health Minister Dr. Jane Philpott can show leadership and ban the practice through the rest of the country to safeguard our public not-for-profit system administered through Canadian Blood Services. We will talk about how you can help at the federal level in a future update.
Again our thanks go out to our thousands of members and supporters throughout the province who helped make this happen. This is a victory we can all be proud of!
We will have many more issues to tackle so don't forget to support our ongoing work. You can sign up for membership or renew online here.