Significant blood shortage occurring before rival competes for arms

Back in April Dr. Graham Sher appeared unconcerned about having to compete for donors against a rival organization willing to pay for what his Canadian Blood Services receives for free.

The Canadian Blood Services CEO had earlier estimated that should rival Canadian Plasma Resources be licensed to collect and pay for donations of plasma, the impact on CBS’ donations would be in the vicinity of 8 per cent.

That wasn’t presented as an alarm, but to quiet critics – including us – who were raising issues around a proposal to introduce large-scale paid plasma donation in Canada by a private for-profit company.

Just a few months later CBS is now “rallying” Canadians to urgently donate, stating the country is now facing “concerning” shortages of blood due to fewer summer donations. While each summer presents challenges, CBS executive Susan Matsumoto told the media the downward trend is especially concerning this year.

This shortage is happening even though the private Canadian Plasma Resources has yet to receive the license it seeks to open the doors of its first two paid donation clinics in Toronto. There is nobody down the street yet offering cash for a donation a student might be ordinarily willing to make for free at one of CBS’ clinics.

In February a Kingston hematologist raised concerns about the impact of paid donation on overall blood donations. Queen’s University pathology professor Dr. Lois Shepherd told the CBC: “For me, the bigger concern is that we do rely on volunteer blood donors in Canada, and if we’re attracting younger people to be paid donors as plasma donors they are going to be pulled out of a population of people that (sic) might potentially be committed red cell whole blood donors.”

Canadian Plasma Resources plans to locate its paid donor clinics adjacent to Canadian universities.

The present shortages should be a warning sign to both Federal and Provincial governments who are pondering whether to allow the rival Canadian Plasma Resources to open its proposed clinics.

CBS says 50,000 donations are needed between now and Labour Day, extending hours and adding special clinics in selected locations.

There is doubtless a cost to this. Now imagine what the cost will be with 8 per cent fewer arms out there in that donation pool.

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