NDP wants ban on plasma clinics that pay donors, but Sask. OKs it

Blood and plasma bags are pictured at a blood collection centre. Marion Berard / AFP / Getty Images

The federal NDP wants Ottawa to ban plasma clinics that pay donors, but Saskatchewan’s health minister says he’s OK with plans for one in his province. New Democrat health critic Don Davies says he’s worried about safety.

“We’ve been down this road before,” Davies said in an interview with The Canadian Press.

“Nearly 30,000 Canadians were infected with HIV and hep C in the ’70s and ’80s and we spent $17-million on a publicly funded federal inquiry which revealed that the paid-donor system was a factor in Canadians receiving tainted blood.”

READ MORE: Saint John man donates to Canadian Blood Services for the 800th time

Davies pointed out that the inquiry recommended that donors should not be paid and that safety of the blood system is paramount.

Ontario and Quebec have moved to ban such clinics, but Saskatchewan Health Minister Dustin Duncan said Friday his province won’t follow suit.

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He said he pointed out to his counterparts at a previous meeting of health ministers that 80 per cent of plasma comes from paid donors in the United States and Europe.

“It’s just a little bit ironic that if it happens across the border and we don’t see it, then it’s OK, but if it happens in Canada, it’s somehow a problem,” said Duncan.

“We recognize, the Canadian Blood Services recognizes, that 80 per cent of the plasma that’s used in Canada comes from paid donations. This is what the system is based on already today. We we need to become a little bit more self-sufficient and paid donations is the way to do that.”

Davies said differing approaches by the provinces is the reason why the federal government has to act.

“We don’t want to wait until there’s a problem. This is my worry … if provinces are being approached on a one-off basis, then there’s a greater chance that one province will allow this.”

“The thing about our blood supply is that it is not limited or contained to one province. If Ontario and Manitoba, for instance, say, ‘No, this isn’t safe,’ but Saskatchewan says it is, Saskatchewan’s decision will have an impact on everybody else.”

The company involved, Canadian Plasma Resources, says on its website that it performs donor screening as per Health Canada regulations.

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In a statement emailed to The Canadian Press, federal Health Minister Jane Philpott said Canada has one of the safest blood systems in the world.

“Health Canada ensures that blood and plasma products sold in Canada are manufactured in accordance with strict safety standards. The decision on payment for donation falls within the jurisdiction of provincial and territorial governments,” it read.

Duncan said he doesn’t have a problem with it, as long as the company passes Health Canada approvals.

“There’s a rigorous process, not unlike our blood system, where it’s tested and we ensure that we have safe products,” said Duncan.

“What gives me a lot of peace of mind in this is that the Canadian Blood Services and the Canadian Hemophilia Society are both on board in this going forward in that it’s a regulated industry.”

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