World Blood Donor Day – Paid Plasma is a Threat

June 14 2023

June 14 has been designated as World Blood Donor Day by the World Health Organization (WHO). The National Union of Public and General Employees (NUPGE), recognizes the critical importance of blood and plasma donation to our health care system. It’s raising the alarm due the grave threat that the expansion of paid-plasma collection represents to Canada’s voluntary system of blood and plasma donation.

CBS violates mandate

Canadian Blood Services (CBS) has been given the responsibility to manage our blood and plasma system. NUPGE believes that CBS has violated the terms of its original mandate by signing a 15-year deal with for-profit plasma company Grifols. The agreement’s terms are secret, but the information provided shows that, Grifols, working with CBS, intends to greatly expand paid-plasma collection in Canada.

This agreement flies in the face of the the original 1997 Federal/Provincial/Territorial Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) that led to the creation of Canadian Blood Services. CBS’ mandate is to maintain and protect its voluntary blood system donor base as it strives for self-sufficiency in the collection of blood and plasma.

NUPGE and Components work in solidarity against blood and plasma

NUPGE and our Components are strongly opposed to paid plasma and work in solidarity with public health advocates in Canada and around the world that recognize allowing payment for collection of blood and plasma critically undermines our voluntary system of blood and plasma collection.

Not only are members of the public concerned about the privatization of our blood services, but frontline workers are as well.

“NUPGE represents the majority of Canadian Blood Services (CBS) workers. Our members have clearly told us that they are concerned about the impact of paid plasma on our voluntary system,” said Bert Blundon, President. “NUPGE continues our call for CBS to stay this contract and recommit to expanding and protecting our voluntary blood and plasma collection system.”

WHO theme highlights voluntary donation

The theme this year is “Give blood, give plasma, share life, share often.” WHO states: Every year countries around the world celebrate World Blood Donor Day (WBDD). The event serves to raise awareness of the need for safe blood and blood products and to thank voluntary, unpaid blood donors for their life-saving gifts of blood.”

WHO is strongly opposed to payment for blood or plasma. This opposition has also been shared by 4 provincial governments that represent over 75% of Canada’s population. British Columbia, Ontario, Quebec and Alberta have all had bans on paying for plasma and blood collection. The ban in Alberta was repealed in 2020, and this has allowed expansion of paid-plasma clinics in that province. This also recently resulted in the takeover of Canadian Plasma Resources in Alberta by Grifols.

CBS knows the danger of paid plasma

CBS knows the danger paid plasma presents to the voluntary donation system. NUPGE has previously noted that, in a submission to the Senate of Canada, dated March 13, 2019, CBS stated:

. . . Purchasing raw plasma collected by for-profit, commercial plasma collectors who pay their donors is not aligned with the founding blood system principles that remain in force today. . . .

. . . We are aware of growing concerns in the U.S. that the continual expansion of commercial enterprises that pay donors is impacting whole blood collections from unpaid donors, a concern referred to as ‘crowding out.’

It is the emergence of large-scale commercial for-profit collectors that is the concern. Internationally, it has been discussed that when for-profit, paid plasma systems expand rapidly, they can reduce the ability of the not-for-profit blood industry to meet its blood collection targets.

NUPGE will continue to support our public blood and plasma collection

NUPGE believes that CBS must be called out for violating the terms of their own MOU, for violating the Krever Commission pronouncements on paid plasma, and for using this contract with Grifols to circumvent provincial law. NUPGE, with our members, and all Canadians who are committed to public health care, especially patients who need access to blood and plasma, will continue to advocate for a strong and safe blood and plasma system.

For more information: World Blood Donor Day: Ontario’s voluntary donation system under threat by for-profit pharmaceutical giant (OPSEU/SEFPO)