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Regina chapter writes federal health minister about for-profit plasma donation clinics

Jim ElliottThe Council of Canadians Regina chapter has written federal health minister Jane Philpott asking her to oppose for-profit plasma donation clinics.

On Dec. 23, CBC reported, “Canadian Plasma Resources (CPR), a company that pays for plasma donations, is hoping to set up a shop in Saskatoon. It’s controversial, and has some people raising concerns. The process CPR uses for plasma donation [is] a similar process to donating blood, but the cells are returned to the donor during the process, and only the plasma is taken. As a result, donors can give much more frequently than they can for blood donations — as often as once a week.”

The article adds, “The most controversial part is that CPR pays people who donate. The practice was banned in Quebec and is about to be banned in Ontario. The company gives donors a $25 gift card for each donation. The gift card can be used almost anywhere a credit card can, but donors cannot withdraw cash from it, or transfer it into another person’s name. …The company is currently awaiting approval from Health Canada. [CPR CEO Barzin] Bahardoust said that if they open, they expect about half their donors to be students. …[Dr. Ryan] Meili is also concerned that the company targets low-income people.”

On Dec. 24, 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.”

He highlights in his letter, “Justice Horace Krever said that Canada should not pay donors for blood or plasma, except in rare circumstances. This is in line with the World Health Organization’s recommendation that all governments should strive for the safest process: using unpaid, voluntary blood and plasma donors. …It would be my recommendation that this proposal by Canadian Plasma Resources be rejected on a number of reasons but principally it would put into jeopardy our valued blood services system. Voluntary donation of blood products is the cornerstone of a safe and adequate supply. We have to say no.”

In a March 2013 campaign blog we noted, “The Harper government is considering an application from Canadian Plasma Resources to open for-profit blood donation clinics in Toronto and Hamilton where donors would be paid $20 for being hooked up to a plasma collection machine.” By June 2013, we were able to report, “Last week, Council of Canadians’ chairperson Maude Barlow and numerous others dedicated to public health care signed an open letter on for-profit plasma clinics to Health Minister Leona Aglukkaq that was published in the Hill Times. Yesterday, Minister Aglukkaq announced that the federal government would re-open a (limited) consultation process and allow the public to comment on for-profit blood collection.” By November 2014, Canadian Plasma resources had withdrawn its plans to open up to ten plasma collection centres in Ontario cities after the Ontario government announced its intention to ban paid blood donations through Bill 21, the Safeguarding Health Care Integrity Act.

The CEO of Canadian Plasma Resources says if Health Canada approves their application his company could be open in Saskatchewan as early as this month.

Further reading
WIN! Company abandons plans to establish for-profit plasma clinics in Ontario (Nov. 25, 2014)