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August 19, 2022

Canada’s nurses call on Canadian Blood Services to cease negotiations with paid plasma industry


Canada’s nurses are deeply troubled by reports that Canadian Blood Services (CBS) – Canada’s national blood authority – is negotiating with paid plasma corporations to vastly expand commercial, for-profit plasma collection across the country. The Canadian Federation of Nurses Unions (CFNU) has voiced our concerns about the presence of commercial plasma collection facilities since their arrival to the country in 2016.

“We have always maintained, alongside BloodWatch and other concerned organizations, that enabling donors to receive payment in exchange for plasma creates unfair competition that risks undermining our voluntary whole blood and plasma donor base,” said Pauline Worsfold, Secretary-Treasurer of the CFNU.

It would be irresponsible to threaten the viability of our voluntary blood collection system at a time when donations are significantly down. CBS has itself acknowledged a loss of more than 30,000 donors in the past two years. While it has invested in attracting more donors, it would be undercutting these investments by concurrently striking a deal to massively expand the paid-plasma industry, even if, as CBS has suggested, some of the plasma collected is used in Canada.

If we paid Canadians for their plasma on a large scale, we would be jeopardizing our voluntary donor system for both whole blood and plasma. CBS has admitted this themselves – large-scale growth of commercial plasma collection sites could, in their own words, encroach on the existing voluntary system for both blood and plasma collections.

As the Krever Inquiry concluded, whole blood can only be collected from voluntary donors without payment for safety reasons. If payment for plasma becomes the norm in Canada, it would make our voluntary blood supply particularly vulnerable.

There is no alternative for the whole blood supply – so when blood donors are lost to the paid-plasma system, our blood supply is consequently diminished.

“If CBS is concerned about securing domestic plasma collected in Canada, it should follow in the footsteps of Australia, New Zealand and many European countries and invest more heavily in collection sites for voluntary donors,” continued Worsfold.

As the provinces and territories are the largest funders of CBS, it is incumbent upon these governments to demand a halt to negotiations between CBS and the paid-plasma industry. CBS should be putting its resources into petitioning these governments for additional funding to open more publicly funded voluntary collection centers rather than striking a deal with multinational pharmaceutical companies. It is also incumbent on the CBS Board of Directors to advise CBS to halt these negotiations.

Canada’s nurses are proud to join a growing chorus of voices across the country demanding that CBS immediately stop these negotiations, and that going forward, CBS be transparent with the Canadian public about decisions of such magnitude. Canadian blood should never become a profit-making endeavor, especially not during a pandemic, when Canadians are struggling economically.

“We stand ready to work with CBS in supporting the continued expansion of our voluntary blood and plasma collection system across the country,” Worsfold concluded.