Each year on June 14, World Blood Donor Day is celebrated around the globe. World Blood Donor Day is not only an opportunity to encourage Ontarians to donate blood, it is an opportunity to discuss the importance of having a fully public blood system, where safety is top priority. It is an opportunity to honour voluntary and unpaid blood donation, and those who give so generously.
At OPSEU, we proudly represent more than 1200 members working for Canadian Blood Services. They literally keep the blood system flowing, and their work is a lifeline for our entire health care system.
So, to all donors and blood services staff, thank you for your invaluable contributions.
Today is also an important opportunity to reflect on our history.
It’s been more than 30 years since the tainted blood scandal shook Canada. For so many, that terrible tragedy will never be forgotten. Many people have suffered, and even died because of the tainted blood they were given. We can’t let history repeat itself.
That’s why the Krever Inquiry into the tainted blood scandal was so important. We must always remember and follow its findings: that 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; and that the safety of the blood system is paramount.
While we have come a long way since the tainted blood scandal, there is more work to be done. In Canada, we are completely self-sufficient when it comes to blood collection and supply for direct-use. But when it comes to blood products used in medications, we still rely heavily on paid American donors. We must continue to demand that appropriate investments are made to build and staff new plasma collection facilities in Canada.
We must also remain vigilant in our fight against the dark forces of privatization.
It’s disturbing that despite the obvious lessons from our history, the federal government has allowed a private blood plasma collection company to set up shop in Saskatoon and Moncton. The government even appointed a so-called “expert” panel to help push forward its privatization agenda. This is especially troubling when we know that paid donations undermine the volunteer donor base, and threaten the entire public blood system.
While paid plasma is currently banned in Ontario, the stark reality is that we’ve entered a new political era where our vigilance and attention is more urgent now than ever.
As the watchdog of our public services sector, we may be forced to show our teeth. We know our history; together, we must fight for a better future.
Warren (Smokey) Thomas, President, OPSEU
Sean Allen, Chair, Canadian Blood Services and Diagnostics Sector, OPSEU