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September 8, 2022

Canada’s nurses denounce privatization of Canada’s public blood supply system

Canadian Blood Services

Blood is a critical public medical necessity, not a commodity.

Canada’s nurses condemn Canadian Blood Services’ (CBS) decision to introduce payment for plasma donations through their new deal with Grifols, an international pharmaceutical company.

CBS has been signaling for weeks that it may, for the first time in its history, begin working with private companies that pay for the donation of blood plasma. This decision would have far-reaching consequences that could potentially threaten the sustainability of Canada’s public blood supply system.

“In coming to this agreement, Canadian Blood Services is abandoning its mandate to operate a voluntary public blood supply system, and opening the door to unchecked privatization of a critical resource on which so many in Canada rely,” said Pauline Worsfold, secretary-treasurer of the Canadian Federation of Nurses Unions (CFNU).

CBS is responsible for most of the plasma collected within Canada, but the newly inked deal with Grifols – the world’s largest plasma producer – would fundamentally upend this process, allowing Grifols to set up private clinics to collect and process plasma, and ultimately sell it back to CBS at a profit.

Without clear limits to protect the sustainability of the public system from large-scale commercialization, Canada’s nurses are profoundly concerned that introducing payment for plasma will jeopardize voluntary blood collection across the country – in direct contravention of CBS’ mandate to operate a voluntary supply of blood and plasma products.

Furthermore, the deal officially puts an end to any efforts by CBS to improve voluntary plasma self-sufficiency as other jurisdictions have successfully done, including Quebec, which doubled self-sufficiency from 15% to 30% between 2016 and 2021. By contrast, CBS remained at 15% during the same time period.

“It is deeply troubling that this decision was made without public oversight or accountability, thereby undermining trust in Canadian Blood Services itself,” said Worsfold. “The responsible stewardship of Canada’s public blood supply system requires transparency and a commitment to strengthen access for everyone.”

Canada’s nurses call on federal, provincial and territorial health ministers to commit once again to the voluntary public mandate of CBS by immediately replacing the organization’s current CEO and Board. This move is a necessary step in restoring public trust in CBS and our voluntary blood supply, and ensuring the faithful implementation of the 1998 agreement that created this vital public service.