Will Act banning paid blood and plasma collection die in committee?

All the election talk raises the question of whether the opposition parties will pull the plug on the present minority government before passage of a bill that will ban paid plasma collection in the province.

The Voluntary Blood Donations Act 2014 was referred to the legislature’s Standing Committee on Social Policy after it passed second reading April 14.

The question is, will the parties drag the Act out in committee to an inevitable death, or will they push it back quickly to the legislature for third reading? The former, rather than the latter seem more likely at this point. Readers concerned about this issue may want to contact their MPP’s soon to encourage passage.

The private for-profit Canadian Plasma Resources has already opened its doors in Toronto without licensing from either the Federal or Provincial governments.

Yesterday Dr. Ryan Meili (EvidenceNetwork.ca) and Dr. Monica Dutt (Chair, Canadian Doctors for Medicare) published an op/ed in the Globe and Mail arguing paid plasma donation “poses significant ethical, safety and public health concerns.”

They made particular note of the World Health Organization’s caution that where paid blood donations are permitted, the number of voluntary donors decrease. This point should be underlined given the blood shortages Canada faced towards the end of last summer.

“Among the recommendations from Justice Horace Krever was that Canada should not pay donors for blood or plasma, except in rare circumstances,” write the two doctors. “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.”

In this case, CPR plans to open donation centers across Canada that would have greater capacity than CBS. This is not a small exception like Winnipeg’s Cangene, which only pays donors with rare blood types.

Defending the bill in the legislature, Health Minister Deb Matthews said “these for-profit clinics would compensate donors for plasma that would likely be sold for a hefty profit on the international market to manufacture plasma products for pharmaceutical use. It would not—and I repeat, not—increase the availability or supply of plasma protein products in Ontario.”

Canadian Plasma Resources has engaged two companies to lobby MPPs at Queen’s Park, including Jim Pimblett, former executive assistant to Prime Minister Martin. Pimblett also served as a senior advisor to former Premier Dalton McGuinty.

Adrenaline Digital is suspected to be behind an on-line site posted by Plasma For Ontario. PFO gives no information about who it represents or where its funding stems from. Adrenaline has been behind past on-line campaigns for both Tim Hudak and Kathleen Wynne.

The mysterious PFO claims to have the support of Derhane Wong Rieger, who advocated on behalf of the victims of the 1990s tainted blood scandal. Wong Rieger was appointed to the board of Canadian Blood Services but resigned in 1999 claiming CBS was being too cautious, particularly where donors may have visited countries exposed to Creutzfeldt-Jakob (mad cow) disease. Despite the support, Wong-Rieger’s Canadian Organization for Rare Disorders (CORD) has not – to date – posted anything about the issue on its website. Neither does CORD post the source of its funding.

“I only hope we haven’t acted too late on this and that this business doesn’t slip through the cracks and set a standard that Canadians don’t want to follow,” the NDP’s Theresa Armstrong told the legislature during debate in April.

We do too.

OPSEU will be making available copies of a petition for members to sign at our upcoming Convention in May. Meanwhile, don’t let this bill die. Urge your MPP to support its swift passage.

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