Labour Federation urges Liberals to keep our blood supply safe and available for patients

By Joan Wark
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Labour Federation President Danny Cavanagh has written the Federal and provincial Health Ministers on this issue…

The Nova Scotia Federation of Labour is very concerned with the developments concerning the expansion of for-profit pay-for-plasma clinics. The first for-profit pay-for-plasma clinic by Canadian Plasma Resources (CPR) was established in Saskatoon in February 2016.  The CPR clinics are paying between $25 and $75 for plasma each collection, with increasing payments for increasing number of collections per person.

We are deeply concerned about the commercialization of the Canadian blood supply system. A private, for-profit company, Canadian Plasma Resources (CPR), has plans to establish a plasma collection clinic in Nova Scotia. The company is paying donors for blood products, selling it in international markets, and risking the security of Canada’s voluntary, safe and public blood system.

The company sets up their clinics in areas where vulnerable and low-income Canadians live. This company intends to proliferate 8 additional for-profit pay-for-plasma clinics in the future.

We are concerned about the safety, security, and sustainability of plasma for Canadians and in Canada. In our Country we do not sell body parts such as organs or tissue, we should not be selling blood or blood products such as plasma.

Since 2014, Ontario and Alberta have joined Quebec to legislatively ban payment for all blood product donations. It is essential that Nova Scotia join them and protect the voluntary, safe and public blood system Canadians believe in. Each province is responsible for upholding the Guiding Principles of the CBS Memorandum of Understanding, including the protection of voluntary donations and national self-sufficiency in blood and plasma.

The Nova Scotia Government must now join the other provinces and legislate to ban payments for all blood product donations and not allow for-profit pay-for-plasma clinics or anything like those. The commercialization of the Canadian blood supply system must end.

Following the tainted blood scandal of the 1970s and 1980s, Justice Krever recommended the establishment of the Canadian Blood Services (CBS), a national, arm’s-length public organization responsible and accountable for the blood supply. It was to be governed by five basic principles:

1. Blood is a public resource.
2. Donors of blood and plasma should not be paid for their donations, except in rare circumstances.
3. Whole blood, plasma, and platelets must be collected in sufficient quantities to meet domestic needs for blood components and blood products.
4. Canadians should have free and universal access to blood components and blood products.
5. Safety of the blood supply system is paramount.

These principles were key to re-establishing public confidence in the Canadian blood system. Canadian Blood Services has stated that they will not purchase plasma from CPR because this would jeopardize the security of our blood system. CPR is a corporation that answers to shareholders and is not bound to serve our plasma needs. As it stands, CPR’s plasma will be sold in international markets. We are very concerned that since the opening of CPR’s Saskatoon clinic, there has been a decline in donors to the nearby Canadian Blood Services clinic.

It is our understanding that the Canadian Blood Services believes that the security of our plasma supply can only be achieved through increased plasma collection within the national, not-for-profit system.  It is our understanding that they have written to the Federal Health Minister requesting an end to the licensing of private clinics and have also announced a seven-year plan to open an additional 40 not-for-profit collection centers across Canada.

This effort to boost our volunteer collection capacity must go hand-in-hand with provincial bans on paid plasma collection clinics. We believe deeply in the preservation of a safe, public blood system. As such, we will publicly and unreservedly support your efforts to introduce legislation in Nova Scotia to ban payment for plasma.

We believe that our governments must adhere to the recommendations of the Krever Inquiry that includes collecting all plasma from non-remunerated voluntary sources

We call on the Federal Health Minister to have Health Canada place a moratorium on granting new or pending licenses to the Canadian Plasma Resources, or any other for-profit companies for for-profit pay-for-plasma clinics. We also call on the provincial governments to enact legislation banning for-profit pay-for-plasma clinics as they have in Alberta, Ontario, and Quebec. We stand in support the Canadian Blood Services in their efforts to open 40 new unpaid plasma clinics and draw upon 144,000 new voluntary donor donors to ensure that Canada collects half of all the plasma needed by 2024.

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