Health Minister Deb Matthews is often regarded by the media as one of the front runners to replace Dalton McGuinty as Ontario Premier – a surprise given the intense scrutiny the Minister has been under for her role in the ORNGE air ambulance scandal.
Earlier this year we ran a series of stories about the April closure of the Canadian Blood Services plasma donation centre in Thunder Bay. At the time, Matthews showed little interest in defending the centre or the needed jobs in Northern Ontario – this despite the fact that Bill Mauro, a northern MPP in her caucus, was stating publicly that something didn’t smell right about the closure.
In the legislature she accepted CBS’ explanation that the plasma from Thunder Bay was not needed even though the organization’s annual report showed significant increases in imports of American-sourced plasma.
It is interesting to compare Matthews’ lack of interest over the fate of the Thunder Bay facility with that of the New Brunswick government over the closure of a CBS processing and distribution centre in Saint John.
In late 2009 the New Brunswick Liberal government learned that CBS planned to close the Saint John facility by 2012. Both the Liberals and Conservatives opposed the centralization of the centre’s activities to Dartmouth, Nova Scotia.
They were so furious the New Brunswick government even commissioned a KPMG report to look at the option of taking the province out of CBS altogether.
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Liberal MPP Bill Mauro introduced a 2,000-signature petition into the Ontario legislature today calling upon the government to use its influence to reopen the Canadian Blood Services Thunder Bay Plasma Donor Clinic.
The clinic closed its doors back in April after CBS claimed it had an oversupply of plasma for transfusion.
In fact, Thunder Bay had also been a contributor to a high-demand plasma product called intravenous immunoglobulin (IVIG). Canada is amongst the highest users of IVIG in the world.
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You may have seen this story before.
Recently Canadian Blood Services said it was increasing imports of “surplus” plasma from the United States, assuring us it is FDA approved.
In 2009/10 CBS imported 10,000 units. In 2010/11 it was doubled to 20,000 units.
In the 1980s the U.S. FDA also approved shipments of plasma product to Canada and other countries around the globe.
While the U.S. FDA was happy to approve the export of this product in the 1980s, they wouldn’t allow it for U.S. use since 1984.
Why? It came from an Arkansas prison, where HIV and Hepatitus C was widespread among inmates.
Arkansas was one of the few U.S. states that did not pay inmates for the work they performed in the corrections system. However, selling their blood was considered a legitimate way to make money in prison that was “considered acceptable to the citizens of Arkansas” according the Arkansas Times. And of course, the Arkansas Department of Corrections took their cut of the revenue.
When this blood was sold around the world – including here in Canada — it created a tainted blood scandal that took the lives of thousands of innocent victims.
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Politicians, donors, staff and union officials rallied outside Canadian Blood Services’ Thunder Bay Plasma Donation Centre on April 11, 2012.
CBS is plans on closing the centre April 12, placing 28 staff out of work.
While it claims it does not need the 10,800 annual units of plasma from donors in Thunder Bay, CBS notes in its last annual report that it is importing 20,000 units of “surplus” plasma from the United States.
To watch a video of today’s rally, click below.
April 11 rally at CBS Thunder Bay Plasma Donation Centre