For several years, the New Brunswick Union (NBU/NUPGE) has been sounding the alarm on the dangers of allowing for-profit plasma collection clinics to operate in New Brunswick.
One such clinic was opened in Moncton under the Gallant government, and thus far, the current Blaine Higgs administration has not taken any action.
The report of the Krever Commission on the blood supply in Canada cannot be ignored. The current COVID-19 pandemic has made the need to ban this practice even more apparent, both in New Brunswick and nationwide.
For-profit plasma collection clinics are harmful to the province, its citizens, and the national blood and plasma supply.
I recently sent a letter to all members of the New Brunswick Legislative Assembly on this topic. My letter states, in part:
“Given the benefits of protecting our system and helping combat this pandemic through the collection of convalescent plasma, we’re urging the provincial government to bring forward the Voluntary Blood Donations Act. This piece of legislation will ensure Canadian Blood Services is the sole entity that can collect blood and blood products from Canadians. It would mean for-profit clinics – like the one in Moncton – would not be permitted operate in our province.”
In Alberta, which already has a Voluntary Blood Donations Act, a private member’s bill was recently introduced that proposes repealing it. It aims to end the province’s ban on the private purchase of human blood.
During the current COVID-19 health crisis, the supply of blood and plasma through voluntary, non-remunerated collection in Canada is critical to the health and safety of Canadians.
Creating a competitive market for blood donors and permitting for-profit plasma companies – like the one in Moncton – to lure donors away from our public blood system by offering payment and other financial incentives, endangers our ability to secure a healthy, national, voluntary donor base, while also compromising Canadian Blood Services’ plasma collection strategy and our ability to increase plasma self-sufficiency.
In addition, convalescent plasma – plasma from a person who has recovered from an illness – is also in need at this time. After recovering from an illness, your system produces a set of antibody molecules that are now present in your plasma that were not there before. In terms of COVID-19, convalescent plasma can be used to help treat patients with current cases. We need this to be collected by Canadian Blood Services for use in developing a vaccine rather than being collected and sold to the highest bidder on the international market.
It’s also imperative that we protect our supply to produce medication derived from plasma to help treat Canadians who depend on it.
In May 2019, Canadian Blood Services testified before the Standing Senate Committee on Social Affairs, Science and Technology and publicly stated that the private, for-profit collection of plasma will not secure plasma or plasma-derived products for Canadian patients. Instead, plasma collected by for-profit companies in Canada is commercialized and sold on international markets.
Throughout this pandemic we have done what is best for citizens and our healthcare system. Passing the Voluntary Blood Donations Act is another step in the right direction.
The NBU encourages all New Brunswickers to educate themselves on the topic, and contact their MLA, if they so choose, to help protect a vital part of our nation’s health care system. Canadians in all provinces need to make their voices heard on this issue. We cannot afford another public health crisis on top of COVID-19.
New Brunswick Union President Susie Proulx-Daigle is President of the New Brunswick Union (NBU/NUPGE).
NB Media Co-op board member Tracy Glynn wrote a report “The Creeping Privatization of Health Care in New Brunswick,” with the New Brunswick Health Coalition that documents how the province’s public health care model is on a slippery slope towards privatization — and also that many advocacy groups are fighting to stop the slide. The story and link to the report is here.