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Federal panel on plasma a ‘privatization trap’: OPSEU

OPSEU Blood Services and Diagnostics

Toronto – OPSEU President Warren (Smokey) Thomas has questioned the motives behind a federal ‘expert’ panel on plasma collection, and the timing of its final report, which he described as a “blatant blow to our public blood system.”

The panel, which Health Canada appointed last year, released the final report this week as part of an ongoing discussion around Canada’s supply of blood plasma used for medical treatments and drugs. 

“I think it’s highly irresponsible for these so-called experts to brush-off the risk of commercial plasma collection and paid donations,” said Thomas. “Especially when it’s the provinces and the public who shoulder all the risk, not Health Canada. It’s pretty telling that Ontario, BC, Alberta and Quebec have all banned paid plasma to protect the blood supply.”

The report fails to mention a warning from Canadian Blood Services to Canada’s health ministers that paying for plasma does not help secure supply – a “striking omission” in a report focused on improving homegrown supply, according to Sean Allen, Chair of OPSEU’s Blood Services and Diagnostics Division.

“I’m not shocked that the panel was so off-the-mark,” said Allen. “Having participated in the process, I could see that this panel was meant to prop-up Health Canada’s position. The process was framed to get the conclusion the federal government wanted to push forward from the get-go – it was a privatization trap.” 

“They’ve completely ignored the findings of the Krever Inquiry into the tainted blood scandal,” Allen said. “Significant improvements have been made to our blood system since then, but that’s precisely because it’s fully public, and donations are voluntary. Paid donations don’t secure supply, they undermine our voluntary collection system.”

Since its release, critics have called the report a piece of political cover for Health Canada, which had already licensed two private clinics in Saskatoon and Moncton.

“We’ve got to question the timing and motive behind the establishment of this panel, and the report,” said Thomas. “We’ve got to question why Health Canada would ignore the CBS warning, and instead back a private company that’s looking to profit off one of our most precious public resources.”

According to Thomas however, the report did get one thing right – Canada must do more to collect its own homegrown plasma and reduce its dependency on foreign markets.

“Last year, Canadian Blood Services came forward with a plan for 40 new plasma collection centres,” said Thomas. “We fully supported that plan, and agreed that significant investments were needed to expand our capacity and reduce our dependency on paid markets.

“Ultimately, this is a political choice,” said Thomas. “The government must defend our system, not sell it off. We need to collect more plasma, but we must do so publicly. We will continue to push for a plan that’s in the public interest.”

For more information: Warren (Smokey) Thomas, 613-329-1931; Sean Allen, 613-795-2415