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CBS buys U.S. plasma while shutting down Thunder Bay collection facility

We the North
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THUNDER BAY — Canadian Blood Services is buying an increasing supply of blood plasma products from the United States while shutting down its only Canadian plasma collection facility in Thunder Bay.

This is despite caution from the World Health Organization about “paid” blood donations that increase the risk of blood borne illness transmitted through such products. Unlike Canada, the U.S. relies on paid blood donations that can encourage financially desperate donors to lie during the screening process.

“Canadian Blood Services is ignoring its own goal to source more Canadian-content in plasma products,” says Warren (Smokey) Thomas, president of the 130,000-member Ontario Public Service Employees Union. “Telling us that they don’t need the 10,000 units of plasma collected at the Thunder Bay site, they sourced 20,000 “surplus” units of plasma from the United States.”

CBS has been increasing its sourcing of U.S.-based “surplus” plasma since 2009 according to their most recent annual report.

Yesterday CBS sent out a letter to their clients telling them they were diversifying their source of plasma products among several U.S. companies.

Last Friday workers in Thunder Bay were told their collection facility is being closed by CBS within two weeks.

Donors in Thunder Bay feel betrayed, having being told that their donations were essential one day, surplus the next.

Demand for immunoglobulin (IG) – manufactured from blood plasma – has increased by 9 per cent last year. Used by cancer patients to build their immunity, Canada is among the highest users of IG in the world according to CBS.

In 2003-04 CBS set a target of 40 per cent if IG to be sourced from Canadian-based plasma. Last year it was 25 per cent.

OPSEU is calling upon the provincial and federal health ministers to urge CBS to reconsider this decision.

For more information and commentary on this issue, go to www.diablogue.org