Ontario Health Minister Deb Matthews has asked Health Canada to delay licensing of three new clinics that would pay donors for blood plasma.
The new clinics represent a fundamental change in how we treat blood donations in Canada and is contrary to the recommendations of both the Krever Inquiry and the World Health Organization.
Two private clinics have been set up in Toronto, and a third is planned for Hamilton. The three cannot open until they get licensing approval from Health Canada.
We first learned about these clinics almost a year ago when Canadian Blood Services announced it was closing its last remaining dedicated plasma collection site in Thunder Bay.
At that time we wrote to all provincial health ministers — including Deb Matthews — as well as Federal Health Minister Leona Aglukkaq. The NDP’s France Gelinas asked questions for us on the floor of the legislature. We even circulated two petitions which were also introduced into both Federal and Provincial Parliaments. Outside of Thunder Bay, the media treated the story with indifference despite our efforts.
A year ago we thought it odd that CBS was telling us on one hand that there was an oversupply of plasma, while on the other hand a private company was setting up shop in the province to collect substantially more. CBS’ own annual report showed they were also increasing imports of American plasma.
Their employer fled town, but the workers are still there.
Canadian Blood Services wasted no time in vacating the premises formerly occupied by the Thunder Bay Plasma Donor Clinic up until April 12.
While CBS maintains closure of the clinic was in the works for some time, they had to break their lease and other contracts to make their quick getaway out-of-town. We have no idea what that cost, but along with the layoff of 28 managers and staff, I’m sure they regard it as “just business.”
Initially selling the public on the idea that they had too much plasma — this in a country that has never been self-sufficient in plasma – it has become clear that the real reason behind the closure is financial.
Put simply, it’s cheaper to buy products with source plasma collected from other countries than it is to collect it here and have it fractionated abroad.
The story in quotes:
“IVIG is a product made from large pools of human plasma and it is not possible to claim with certainty that there is no risk of infectious disease transmission.” – From Guidelines for the Use of Intravenous Immune Globulin (IVIG) for Neurologic Conditions, by Tom Feasby, Brenda Banwell, et al. April 2007.
“WHO recommends the following integrated strategy for the provision of safe blood and blood products and safe, efficacious blood transfusions…Collection of blood from voluntary, non-remunerated blood donors at low risk of infections that can be transmitted through blood and blood products, the phasing out of family/replacement donation and the elimination of paid donation.”—From Screening Donated Blood for Transfusion-Transmissible Infections, Recommendations, World Health Organization, 2010.
“We value your time. There are several ways we would like to show you how much we appreciate your continued generosity. You may choose one of the easy methods for collecting your earnings: direct credit to your bank account, cheques, or prepaid Visa cards.” – Website, Canadian Plasma Resources (ExaPharma), a private company that has applied to Health Canada to open two Plasma Donor Clinics in Toronto.