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November 16, 2020

Canada’s Nurses express outrage over Alberta bill to undermine voluntary blood donations

Media Release

EDMONTON, AB – Nurses in Alberta and across the country are voicing strong opposition to the passage of Bill 204: Voluntary Blood Donation Repeal Act earlier today. The bill, introduced by UCP MLA Tany Yao, repeals the 2017 ban on payment for the collection of blood in Alberta, including plasma.

“While its supporters claim Bill 204 will address the sufficiency of the supply of plasma in Canada, it will in fact do the exact opposite,” said Linda Silas, president of the Canadian Federation of Nurses Unions. “The plasma amassed from commercial plasma collectors is sold to the highest bidder on the international market. Meanwhile, as our donors come to expect payment, our voluntary donor base for both blood and plasma will be jeopardized.”

Ontario, Quebec, and British Columbia have prevented payment for blood and plasma collection to protect the security of the domestic supply through a voluntary donor system. Private for-profit plasma collectors currently operate in Saskatchewan and New Brunswick, and the plasma collected by these private corporations is sold on the global market.

“We need a secure supply of blood products in Canada and a strong, voluntary, national supply system is the best way to achieve it,” said Heather Smith, president of United Nurses of Alberta. “This is just another example of the UCP scheme to inject a profit-motive into our public health care system. Donating blood should not be viewed as a business venture.”

Blood and plasma are considered a public resource by Canadian Blood Services, a national organization mandated by Canadians to collect blood and plasma across the country through a voluntary donor system.

While testifying to Alberta MLAs earlier this year, Dr. Graham Sher, CEO of Canadian Blood Services, stated that “the large-scale commercial expansion of plasma collection without adequate controls is a major concern for the integrity of the publicly mandated system and the patients it serves.” Bill 204 does not provide any safeguards to protect Albertans from a paid plasma industry.

Canadian Blood Services will soon be opening plasma donation centres in Lethbridge and in Kelowna, BC, after opening its first plasma donation centre in Sudbury, Ontario in August. As a result of Bill 204, the centre in Lethbridge will be forced to compete with for-profit plasma collection centres.

“Rather than embrace the rampant privatization of our neighbours to the south, we must invest more resources in the protection of our public health care system, including the security of supply of blood and plasma for patients in Alberta,” concluded Silas.