For-profit clinic 'endangers' blood supply: NDP critic
NDP Health Critic Don Davies speaks to reporters in Ottawa, March 7, 2016.
Published Monday, March 7, 2016 1:11PM EST
NDP health critic Don Davies is leading a call for the federal government to shut down a for-profit blood donation clinic that recently opened in Saskatoon, Sask.
Canadian Plasma Resources, which opened its doors on Feb. 18, pays donors a small amount of money for making plasma donations.
In recent weeks, several groups have spoken out against the clinic, including the Saskatchewan Union of Nurses, the Canadian Union of Public Employees, and the Saskatchewan Federation of Labour.
Speaking from Ottawa on Monday morning, Davies called on federal Health Minister Jane Philpott to cancel the licence that was granted to the clinic by Health Canada.
"This kind of blood collection endangers the safety and sustainability of Canada's life-saving blood supply," Davies said.
He also said that the clinic "undermines" the lessons that were learned after the tainted-blood scandal in the 1980s, when up to 30,000 people were infected with HIV and hepatitis C after receiving tainted transfusions. The scandal prompted the Krever Inquiry, at the conclusion of which Justice Horace Krever recommended that blood donors shouldn't be paid for their donations, except in rare circumstances.
Concern over the Saskatoon clinic stems from the possibility that it may attract vulnerable donors, who may not be totally honest when they are interviewed and screened before donation, Davies said.
"When you start introducing a profit motive, coupled with placing the blood donor clinic near vulnerable populations, like low-income areas, methadone clinics, detox centres, now you introduce the possibility that that person may be a little less forthright, because they may need the money," he said.
"When you introduce a for-profit system, you elevate risk,” he added. “Blood is a resource that every single one of us may need today. We can't take any unnecessary risks, and it's foolish to do so."
Davies also said the for-profit clinic may have an additional consequence of pulling donors from the voluntary system into the paid system, which could lead to plasma shortages.
Philpott has so far rejected calls to shut down the Saskatoon clinic, noting that Canada has one of the safest blood systems in the world. On Feb. 19, she said in the House of Commons that the government had examined the issue in "great detail," and is "approaching this matter looking at the science" and "making sure that there are no compromises to the safety of the blood system."
The clinic has said that the plasma it collects will be used in other medical therapies, not for direct transfusions.
Dustin Duncan, the health minister of Saskatchewan, has come out in support of the clinic. He said that up to 80 per cent of the plasma used in Canada currently comes from paid donors, mostly from the U.S. and Europe.
‘We want to preserve the voluntary system’
NDP MP Sheri Benson was also at Monday's news conference. The for-profit clinic is located in her riding, the riding of Saskatoon West, which she says is home to some of the poorest communities in the province.
Benson said, while she supports business development and entrepreneurship, the clinic is an example of the "unfortunate" shift towards the privatization of health care. She said if the government wants to improve access to health care, it must address some of the underlying inequalities affecting some communities.
She also said that residents in her riding don’t support the clinic.
"We want to preserve the voluntary system of blood product collection because we know it is the safest," she said.
Benson also said that, while start-up businesses must understandably have a higher tolerance to risk, that risk must not come at the expense of the blood product supply.
With files from The Canadian Press