Canadian Blood Services has taken a step forward by committing to 3 new plasma collection centres. Unfortunately, Health Canada is still supporting the expansion of paid plasma collection in Canada by a private company. The next step is federal legislation banning paid plasma. — Larry Brown, NUPGE President
Ottawa (13 August 2019) — Just 2 weeks after Health Canada approved an almost doubling of the donation rate at private plasma clinics in Canada, Canadian Blood Services (CBS) has announced they have received funding to open 3 "proof-of-concept" standalone plasma collection centres. The National Union of Public and General Employees (NUPGE) has long called for an expansion of our public, donation-based, plasma collection system and believes that opening these 3 clinics in Sudbury, Kelowna and Lethbridge is an important step forward for the safety and security of Canada's plasma supply. This news is a positive step, while Health Canada's ill-advised expansion of privately collected paid plasma remains a problem
Justice Krever would have approved
In the early 1980's, tens of thousands of Canadians were infected with HIV or Hepatitis C in what came to be known as the tainted blood scandal. To avoid any future compromising of our blood system, Canada convened a Royal Commission of Inquiry on the Blood System in Canada, headed by Justice Horace Krever. The commission made a number of key recommendations. The first recommendation was that to ensure the safety and security of our blood supply, blood must be a public resource that is collected by donation, not by payment and not for profit. Expanding public collection by donation is the way to ensure compliance with Krever's recommendations.
Ban on private clinics still needed
Allowing expansion, or even the existence, of private, for-profit plasma collection is contrary to the Krever recommendations and puts our blood and plasma supply at risk. Canada's 4 provinces with the largest populations have recognized the need to protect our blood supply and have banned private clinics from operating. Unfortunately, the federal government has still not taken action to protect Canadians, so the integrity of the whole system is at risk. The move by the provinces to fund CBS to expand collection of plasma is important, but more still needs to be done.
Concerned by 'proof-of-concept' designation
After years of intense pressure, it seems that CBS has finally agreed to reverse its very weak position against paid plasma and to look toward expanding its plasma collection. NUPGE is concerned that current CBS leadership still does not fully understand the importance of voluntary plasma donation so it will be important for health care advocates to monitor how the 3 new plasma sites are managed. It is also concerning that our governments are moving so slowly to meet their obligations to Canadian patients. Krever recommended that Canada be self-sufficient in blood products and our governments have not taken the steps necessary to meet this goal.
More investment needed
Canadians should not be waiting to have a safe and secure blood system. Investment is needed to make Canada self-sufficient in blood products. To ensure safety, this must clearly be done through our public donation-based system. Expanding public collection of plasma is important, but it will be undermined by the paid collection of plasma by private clinics. Private for-profit collection of plasma is a threat to our blood supply.
The World Health Organization and the European Union both have policies against paid plasma. The ever-increasing numbers of Canadians who are in need of these products should be confident that they are from secure and safe sources. Expanding Canada's blood collection system needs even greater public investment. And to ensure a safe and secure system, we must draw a clear line against for-profit paid plasma.
The National Union of Public and General Employees (NUPGE) is one of Canada's largest labour organizations with over 390,000 members. Our mission is to improve the lives of working families and to build a stronger Canada by ensuring our common wealth is used for the common good. — NUPGE