Health Canada Gives Go-Ahead to Private
Pay-for-Plasma Clinic in New Brunswick
Health Canada on July 24, gave the green light to private company Canadian Plasma Resources to pay people for their blood plasma at its clinic in Moncton, New-Brunswick. The company plans to sell to foreign pharmaceutical manufacturers whatever plasma it buys from Canadians. The clinic has been open for months but only allowed legally to collect plasma from a few dozen donors for purposes of what it calls training, subsequently discarding the plasma or donating it for research.
Canadian Plasma Resources currently operates a donation clinic in Saskatoon. It had two clinics in Ontario, but they were shuttered by provincial legislation in 2014. Donors at the Saskatoon clinic and now at the Moncton clinic will receive a VISA gift card that ranges from $25 to $50 in payment for their blood.
Health Canada has given the green light to the pay-for-plasma clinic in Moncton despite growing opposition from the people of New Brunswick and across Canada. Activists of the campaign to ban payment for plasma, working through the Canadian Health Coalition and its provincial chapters such as the New Brunswick Health Coalition, recall the situation in the early 1980s and ’90s when over 30,000 Canadians were infected with HIV and hepatitis C through blood transfusions. A Royal Commission Inquiry chaired by Justice Horace Krever on the blood scandal recommended the creation of a new blood agency, the Canadian Blood Services, as well as stricter regulations.
Justice Krever’s report said that Canadian blood supply should be governed by five basic principles:
– blood is a public resource;
– donors should not be paid;
– sufficient blood should be collected to preclude imports from other countries;
– access to blood and blood products should be free and universal; and,
– safety of the blood supply system is paramount.
The Krever report also recommended whole blood, plasma and platelets be collected in quantities that meet domestic needs.
“I don’t understand why federal Health Minister, Jane Philpott, is allowing Canada to move backwards and jeopardize the safety of our blood system,” wrote Adrienne Silnicki, National Coordinator of the Canadian Health Coalition last April regarding the Canadian Plasma Resources’ Saskatchewan clinic. “Despite evidence from other countries which show a donor-remunerated plasma system will directly compete with our voluntary system, the federal government has still given CPR the green light,” she said.
The federal government insists it must create competition to the public voluntary plasma clinics with private pay-for-plasma clinics because of the gap between domestic need and Canadian supply. Instead of taking steps to ensure a domestic supply of plasma is provided through public clinics the government is using the current lack to allow the privatization of yet another aspect of health care.
Instead of increasing domestic voluntary supply, Canadian Blood Services has closed down some of its voluntary plasma collection centres. This opens the door for propaganda that private health care is necessary to compete with a universal free public system accessible to all Canadians.
The manipulation of the situation is exposed by the fact that Canadian Plasma Resources will export Canadian plasma for sale on the international market most likely to the United States, where it will be mixed with large pools of plasma from other paid donors. A similar situation is developing in the international private trade for profit in human organs.
In the end there will be no greater self-sufficiency in plasma products. Canada will still have to import plasma-based drugs unless Canadian Blood Services expands its voluntary plasma collection sites to increase supply of plasma. By licensing Canadian Plasma Resources to collect plasma from paid donors, Health Canada and the Saskatchewan and New Brunswick governments are promoting the global private for-profit trade in plasma, not creating self-sufficiency for Canada. This increases the domination and control of Canada’s health system by the global pharmaceutical and other medical oligopolies.
The Health Coalition says this international trading of plasma on the global markets in the context of NAFTA and big business dominated free trade agreements intensifies the pressure against the sovereign right of nations to build their own health care systems including an internal public supply system of plasma and other necessary products for a successful free universal public health care system that guarantees the people’s right to health care.
Resistance to Health Canada’s green light for the private pay-for-plasma clinic in Moncton will not fade. Workers’ Forum recently talked with Daniel Légère, the President of CUPE New Brunswick, which is part of the Health Coalition, who said, “This coalition is there to stay. For months, we have waged that campaign, we have done demonstrations, we have hired somebody to manage the office on a regular basis, we’ve had a campaign on the social media, etc. The resistance is going to carry on and is likely to increase as New Brunswick is going into a general election in September 2018 and this is going to be made an election issue, I am sure.”
(Photos: TML, R. Devet.)
Workers’ Forum Canada