The rain didn’t dampen last week’s gathering of former donors and staff from the Thunder Bay Plasma Donor clinic. Canadian Blood Services closed the clinic April 12 after two weeks’ notice, claiming they had a Canada-wide surplus of plasma for transfusion.
The appreciation event at the Thunder Bay Labour Centre was an opportunity for staff to say goodbye to long-time donors to the clinic. It was also an opportunity to sign petitions calling for greater self-sufficiency in Canada’s plasma supply.
Former staff of the Thunder Bay Plasma Donor Clinic thank long-time donors.
CBS showed in their annual report that they are increasing imports of American plasma while shutting down the last remaining dedicated plasma donor clinic in Canada. Meanwhile several new private for-profit plasma donor clinics are being set up in Southern Ontario.
Thunder Bay resident Reg Meclay spoke about the health problems he experienced after receiving American plasma collected from an Arkansas prison. City Councillors Ken Boshcoff and Larry Hebert – both former donors at the clinic – also spoke. Messages were read from Mayor Keith Hobbs and federal MPs Bruce Hyer and John Rafferty.
The event was hosted by OPSEU’s Kelly Borchardt, whose son sang the national anthem to open the gathering.
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Cookies made for the occasion.
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.
Thousands have already signed our provincial petition asking Health Minister Deb Matthews to use the province’s role as a major funder of Canadian Blood Services to pursue more domestic content in plasma products used by Ontario hospitals.
The petition was circulated after it was learned CBS was closing its Thunder Bay plasma donor clinic at the same time it was increasing “surplus” plasma imports from the United States.
A second petition has now been drafted which asks the Federal government to intervene as regulator of the blood system.
Following the closure of the Thunder Bay Plasma Donor Clinic this week — the last of its kind in Canada — a petition is being circulating urging the Ontario government to use its influence to pursue Canadian Blood Services to increase the Canadian content in its blood plasma products.
CBS had originally agreed to do as much back in 2004, when the deputy ministers asked that the content of intravenous immunoglobulin (IVIG) be increased from 24 per cent to 40 per cent within four years. Today Canadian content is at 25 per cent as CBS shutters its Canadian plasma collection centre.
CBS is replacing Canadian plasma with imported U.S. FDA approved plasma product. U.S. FDA plasma was at the heart of the tainted blood scandal in the early 1990s. The U.S. FDA had approved exports of infected plasma extracted from Arkansas prisoners. 95 per cent of Canadian hemophiliacs were infected with hepatitis C, leading to the Krever Inquiry.
Help us get signatures in your community! Download the PDF petition here: CBS Petition Ontario.
A similiar petition is also being drafted for the Federal Minister of Health.
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.