While the closure of a company planning private plasma clinics in Ontario is a victory, more needs to be done to keep them from opening up elsewhere in Canada.
Toronto (25 Nov. 2014) — Ontario still needs to catch up with Quebec in banning paid blood donation despite the announcement Monday that Canadian Plasma Resources (CPR) is pulling up stakes and leaving the province, says the Ontario Public Service Employees Union (OPSEU/NUPGE).
CPR's plans included three Ontario clinics that would pay clients to harvest their plasma to be manufactured into drug products. One of the key recommendations of the 1980s inquiry into Canada's tainted blood scandal—the biggest public health disaster in our history—was to prohibit paid donation, with rare exceptions, given the risks involved.
Of the three CPR clinics, one was located next to a homeless shelter, the other across the street from a methadone clinic.
Important victory in struggle to keep blood supply safe
"We're pleased to see CPR calling it a day here," says Warren (Smokey) Thomas, OPSEU President, "but clearly this is one step in a lengthy fight to keep our blood system safe. We are calling upon our cousins in the West to keep CPR from gaining a foothold there."
OPSEU/NUPGE has been critical of Canadian Blood Services CEO Dr. Graham Sher, who has insisted that there are no safety issues from paid blood sources for manufacture into drug products such as immunoglobulins. OPSEU/NUPGE argues new blood-borne pathogens come along every generation and are often not discovered right away. When they are, there is often a time lag around testing. By drawing source material from at-risk populations it amplifies the risk to the public.
Despite international conventions around self-sufficiency, Canadian Blood Services has shut down facilities in Saint John and Thunder Bay, shortened clinic hours, taken mobile units off the road, and failed to add staff to its call centres during peak times.
Health Canada needs to put patient safety first
"There is a role here for Health Canada, but clearly, under the Harper government private profits take precedent over public safety," says Thomas. "If CPR re-establishes itself in the West, then we have failed to learn from one of the biggest tragedies in our history."
The Ontario legislature is expected to vote shortly on the second reading of Bill 21 Safeguarding Health Care Integrity Act.
Broad coalition contributed to victory
OPSEU/NUPGE recently sponsored a tour of the play "Tainted" through seven Ontario cities in October. The play retells the story of Canada's tainted blood crisis through the experience of a fictional working-class family.
Dozens of organizations rallied against paid donation in Canada. In addition to OPSEU and the National Union of Public and General Employees (NUPGE), others in support of a public not-for-profit voluntary blood and plasma donation system include Canadian Doctors for Medicare, Council of Canadians, the Canadian Federation of Nurses Unions, the Canadian Health Coalition, and the Canadian Nurses Association.
The National Union of Public and General Employees (NUPGE) is one of Canada's largest labour organizations with over 340,000 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