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Liberals allow private, for-profit blood plasma clinic to open in Saskatoon

Jim ElliottThe Council of Canadians has been opposing Canadian Plasma Resources opening for-profit blood plasma donation clinics since March 2013.

Most recently, the Council of Canadians Regina chapter wrote federal health minister Jane Philpott asking her to oppose for-profit plasma donation clinics. On Dec. 24, 2015, chapter activist Jim Elliott, a regular blood donor, wrote to Minister Philpott stating, “It has come to my attention that Canadian Plasma Resources is awaiting approval from Health Canada to allow them to pay for plasma donations. I believe this is fundamentally the wrong direction and a further erosion of the health services we pride ourselves in providing to the public of Canada.”

But now the Canadian Press reports, “Federal Health Minister Jane Philpott is fending off calls to close a private, for-profit plasma donor clinic in Saskatchewan… The federal NDP called on Ottawa to ban such clinics. …The political exchange [in the House of Commons] came after Canadian Plasma Resources officially opened its doors Thursday [Feb. 18] in Saskatoon.”

The company gives donors a $25 gift card (which can be used almost anywhere a credit card can be used) for each plasma donation, which can be made as often as once a week.

The news article adds, “Unions have been among those calling for the Saskatchewan government to ban such clinics. Ontario did so when Canadian Plasma Resources tried to set up there. The Canadian Union of Public Employees said earlier this month that human tissue should not be ‘turned into a commodity to be bought and sold’. The Saskatchewan Federation of Labour said Thursday that the clinics ‘present a number of moral, ethical and safety concerns’. Federation president Larry Hubich said in a news release that paying donors ‘compromises the safety of plasma, creates competition with our voluntary blood system and does not create self-sufficiency for the country’.”

And Global News notes, “Saskatoon doctor Ryan Meili says he has concerns paid donation will decrease voluntary donation and that donating long-term could can lead to health complications.” In Dec. 2015, CBC reported, “Meili said the process is not without health risks. In the U.S. where donating plasma is common, regular donors report weakness, chronic headaches, and other problems Meili said. He wants blood and plasma donations run by a single organization, Canadian Blood Services, because he believes it will mean better oversight and regulations. Meili is also concerned that the company targets low-income people.”

Federal health minister Jane Philpott has defended the for-profit clinic by stating, “We have examined this in great detail and have confirmed that we are approaching this matter looking at the science and making sure that there are no compromises to the safety of the blood system.”

But in June 2013, Council of Canadians chairperson Maude Barlow signed an open letter that stated, “Allowing Canadian Plamsa Resources to pay donors for plasma is a significant change in practice for our country with respect to blood and plasma collection. The Krever inquiry on the tainted blood scandals specifically called for voluntary donations in Canada to ensure that we have the safest possible blood system, and accommodated deviation from that process only when absolutely necessary (as is the case in Canada’s one paid plasma facility in Winnipeg).”

The letter also noted, “Although Health Canada is responsible for evaluating the safety and regulatory aspects of Canadian Plasma Resources, it has not examined the impact of these paid donation facilities on our voluntary blood and plasma donation system. ,,,[We ask for a] national, public consultations that create a real public policy review that allows all interested parties to contribute to decision-making on this matter.”

Further reading
Regina chapter writes federal health minister about for-profit plasma donation clinics (Jan. 4, 2016)
WIN! Company abandons plans to establish for-profit plasma clinics in Ontario (Nov. 25, 2014)
Harper government considering application from for-profit blood donation clinic (March 28, 2013)

Photo: Regina chapter activist Jim Elliott had called on the federal health minister to reject for-profit plasma donation clinics.