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Thomas to Hoskins: Build capacity in the public blood system

OPSEU President Warren (Smokey) Thomas in the Queen's Park media gallery.
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OPSEU President Warren (Smokey) Thomas sent a letter today to Eric Hoskins, Minister of Health and Long-Term Care, in support of Canadian Blood Services' request for funding to expand capacity in the public blood collection system. 


February 2, 2017

The Honourable Eric Hoskins
Minister of Health and Long-Term Care
10th Floor, Hepburn Block
80 Grosvenor St., Toronto, Ontario M7A 2C4
 

Dear Minister Hoskins,

As you may know, Canadian Blood Services (CBS) has requested funding from the provinces to support a dramatic increase in the amount of plasma it collects to make medications. On behalf of the Ontario Public Service Employees Union, my Executive Board, and our Health Care Divisional Council, I’m writing to express our support for expanded public capacity in the Canadian blood system. We encourage your government to grant the funding requested.

CBS has projected that its plan will cost $100 million over six years to build and staff new plasma collection facilities. According to CBS, Canada is on a trajectory toward dependency on world markets for 90 per cent of the plasma needed in the near future, much of which is collected through paying donors. To be clear, Canada is completely self-sufficient in all other areas of blood collection and supply; our dependence is only on fractionated plasma products, which are used to produce medications. We are pleased to see CBS moving in the right direction: it plans to open 40 new plasma collection centres across Canada and to attract more than 140,000 new voluntary donors.

OPSEU welcomes the expansion of the public blood collection system, which will help stem the growth of private clinics. Our union is deeply concerned about the health and safety implications associated with for-profit collection.

In 2016, a private blood plasma collection company that pays donors was permitted to set up shop in Saskatchewan, which has already had a negative impact on CBS’s ability to collect blood in that province. Canadian Plasma Resources (CPR), the company responsible, is now looking to secure licenses to operate in other provinces, most imminently in Moncton, New Brunswick. While “opening up the market” may be profitable for corporations, it is definitely not in the interest of Canadians who depend on safe blood and plasma products. 

In Canada, our blood system is safe because it is public. Allowing private plasma collection undermines CBS’s volunteer donor base and will, in effect, set up competition for blood and blood products. CBS and Hema Québec already have the facilities and abilities to collect plasma, and these should be supported and expanded. 

In the 1980s, blood tainted with the HIV virus and Hepatitis C led to the worst public health tragedy in Canadian history, claiming more than 1,000 lives. As you know, the disaster led to the establishment of a commission of inquiry, the Krever Commission, to study how the blood system became contaminated and to make recommendations to the federal government.

Among the key findings of the commission:

  • Blood is a public resource.
  • Donors should not be paid.
  • Canada should become self-sufficient in blood products.
  • Access to blood products should be free and universal.
  • Safety of the blood system is paramount.

OPSEU supports these findings and asks that your government provide the necessary funding to expand the public plasma collection system as requested by Canadian Blood Services and that you take action to stop all efforts to privatize what we, as Ontarians own.

Sincerely,

Warren (Smokey) Thomas
President, Ontario Public Service Employees Union

On behalf of:
OPSEU Executive Board
OPSEU Health Care Divisional Council

Enclosure

c: Hon. Kathleen Wynne, Premier