Health Canada’s expert panel on Immune Globulin Product Supply and Related Impacts in Canada just released its final report and, disappointingly, it fails to support our public blood system.

The panel states: “…the move to collect more source plasma by Canadian Blood Services (CBS) and Héma-Québec (H-Q) needs to be based on solid business principles and learnings and/or partnerships with the private sector who have significant expertise.”

Sadly, the panel:

  • Makes recommendations while it had no mandate to do so
  • Calls for the privatization of our plasma collection system as the way to address the issue of self-sufficiency
  • Doesn’t focus on what CBS and Héma-Québec can do to further enhance their efforts to increase plasma self-sufficiency through our existing public system
  • Ignores the fact that British Columbia, Alberta, Ontario, and Quebec have legislation that prohibits payment for blood and plasma to protect our public, voluntary blood donation system 
  • Violates the Memorandum of Understanding between the federal, provincial, and territorial governments that authorizes CBS to operate as the single blood authority outside Quebec that’s tasked with managing the blood system
  • Goes against the advice of the World Health Organization, the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Society, the European Blood Alliance, the International Society of Blood Transfusion, and the Krever principles which recommend that blood donation be voluntary and non-remunerated

From the start, Health Canada’s decision to appoint two advisors to the panel with direct ties to the pay-for-plasma industry was part of the problem. It looks like a deliberate attempt to justify its decision to allow a private, for-private plasma company to operate in Saskatchewan and New Brunswick. CUPE is disappointed with the work of Health Canada on this file. It shouldn’t be letting private interests influence public health care policy.

The tainted blood crisis of the 1980s has not faded from Canada’s collective memory. Lives continue to be lost to this terrible and preventable tragedy.  However, the panel notes that: “there have been no confirmed cases of disease transmitted through plasma derived products” since CBS was founded in 1998. Privatization will put this important accomplishment at grave risk.  Health Canada should not consider taking that risk. It should support the expansion plans of our public blood authority, the CBS. 

Efforts undertaken within our public system to bolster plasma self-sufficiency are effective. The panel did recognize that Canada needs to increase its plasma self-sufficiency. Since 2013, Héma-Québec’s strategy to increase plasma collection nearly doubled the amount of plasma it collects through voluntary donations. Canadian Blood Services (CBS) also plans to expand its collection of plasma, by opening 40 collection sites, recruiting more donors, and creating 2,600 new jobs that will support plasma collection both directly and indirectly. These examples show that public solutions do work better.

For more information about how to keep our blood and plasma supply safe in Canada, click here.