Toronto (08 Dec. 2022) — The Ontario Public Service Employees Union (OPSEU/SEFPO/NUPGE) and BloodWatch.org are calling on the provincial government to investigate the terms of an undisclosed agreement between Canadian Blood Services (CBS) and the multi-national pharmaceutical giant Grifols. Their call is supported by MPP France Gélinas, the NDP health critic.
Deal sells donor base to foreign company, puts profit ahead of public care
The agreement could violate the Voluntary Blood Donations Act in Ontario, granting Grifols a monopoly on paid-plasma collection and designating the private company as a third-party collector. Through this agreement, CBS has essentially created a 2-tier system for plasma collection in Ontario, and sold market access to Canada’s donor base to a foreign-owned company, abandoning their duty to the Canadian public.
“Premier Ford and Minister Jones need to answer these increasing calls for transparency and accountability,” says JP Hornick, President of OPSEU/SEFPO. “Each year, CBS — a registered charity — receives millions of dollars in public funding to collect blood and plasma in Ontario. Yet, the terms of this deal with a private, for-profit corporation are not public — and they must be.”
Privatization of system ignores Krever recommendations
"After all the rebuilding of our blood system, we cannot afford to allow the public trust to be broken again," said Bert Blundon, President of the National Union of Public and General Employees (NUPGE), of which OPSEU/SEFPO is a Component. "The Krever Commission was created to protect Canadians from another tainted-blood scandal. Justice Krever explicitly called for no paid plasma in Canada. Handing our plasma-collection system over to privateers for profit is an affront to all the victims."
If allowed, the secretive 15-year agreement would mark the first time that donors would be paid for their plasma in a for-profit collection scheme in Ontario. A privatized paid plasma scheme violates the Voluntary Blood Donations Act. It also contravenes recommendations from the Krever Commission and international guidelines for plasma collection. It would also negatively affect voluntary collection efforts and exploit vulnerable populations.
“We must remember the Canadians who got sick or died during the tainted-blood crisis and the recommendations of the Krever Commission,” says MPP Gélinas. “The Ontario Minister of Health is currently the lead supervisor of Canadian Blood Services. She has a duty to protect Ontarians from exploitation by shutting down this deal. For-profit plasma collection puts the stability of our voluntary blood system at risk. Minister Jones and Premier Ford should act now, before it’s too late.”
Paid plasma, a risk to public safety
The organizations argue that a shift toward paid-plasma collection is not only a betrayal of the public trust but an ethical violation of CBS’s duty to safeguard the blood system and voluntary donor base.
“Our supply chain is in the veins of human beings, who deserve to be protected and cared for by our public-blood operator,” says Kat Lanteigne, Executive Director and Co-founder of BloodWatch.org. “We cannot permit the CEO of Canada’s national human tissue collection bank, who also overseas stems cells and organs, to use public funds to promote a blood market.”
Government action needed
OPSEU/SEFPO and its allies call on the Ontario government to:
- use their statutory powers under the act to investigate the nature of this agreement and make the terms public;
- issue an order for CBS to comply with the terms of the Voluntary Blood Donations Act; and
- remove CEO Graham Sher of CBS for his failure of leadership in the public interest.
The National Union of Public and General Employees (NUPGE) is one of Canada's largest labour organizations with over 425,000 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.
While our Components are located from coast to coast, the office of the National Union of Public and General Employees is situated on the traditional unceded territory of the Algonquin Anishinaabeg people and is now home to many diverse First Nations, Inuit and Métis communities.
We recognize and acknowledge the crimes that have been committed and the harm that has been done.
And, we dedicate ourselves, as a union, to moving forward in partnership with Indigenous Peoples in a spirit of reconciliation and striving for justice. — NUPGE