CUPE: Ban private, paid-for plasma donations in Sask.

The Canadian Union of Public Employees is calling on the Saskatchewan government to ban private, paid-for plasma donations. Marion Berard / AFP / Getty Images

REGINA – A union representing more than 13,000 Saskatchewan health care workers says human tissue should not be “turned into a commodity to be bought and sold.” The Canadian Union of Public Employees says private, for-profit blood donor clinics should be banned in Saskatchewan.

CUPE Saskatchewan president Tom Graham says government should promote and expand the voluntary donor system if there is a shortage of blood and donors.

“I know the minister had said that we have a short supply here and we do, but this is not going to resolve that and it’s quite frankly risking the blood supply,” Graham said Thursday.

A company called Canadian Plasma Resources is setting up in Saskatoon and plans to pay people with $25 gift cards for making plasma donations.

Health Canada said in an email to The Canadian Press that Canadian Plasma Resources is licensed to operate two sites in Toronto, although they have never been opened.

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The Ontario government has now banned such clinics. The company filed an amendment to their licence to open one site in Saskatchewan and that application is still under review.

Canadian Plasma Resources said the plasma would be used to make other medical therapies, not for transfusions.

CEO Dr. Barzin Bahardoust said Health Canada and similar regulatory bodies around the world have concluded that compensation for plasma donors “does not affect the safety of the product.”

Bahardoust pointed to a 2013 statement from Canadian Blood Services which said that a prohibition on paying donors for plasma would deny patients access to these products.

Last month, the federal NDP also called on Ottawa to ban plasma clinics that pay donors.

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

But Saskatchewan Health Minister Dustin Duncan replied that his province would not follow suit. Duncan said he doesn’t have a problem with the clinic and noted that 80 per cent of plasma used in Canada currently comes from paid donors in the United States and Europe.

Bahardoust said the number of Canadian donations “is just going down.”

“About a decade ago it was 40 per cent. Now it’s around 20 per cent and if we don’t do anything about it, probably in less than a decade it would be in single digits,” Bahardoust said in a recent interview with The Canadian Press.

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Bahardoust said the centre would be inspected by Health Canada and comply with national regulations, including donor screening and testing.

But Graham pointed out that a federal inquiry into the tainted blood scandal of the 1980s recommended against paying blood donors.

Graham said safeguards don’t always work.

“The more different bodies (there are) doing something, the more opportunity there is for errors to be made,” said Graham.

“We’re not blatantly stating that Canadian Plasma Resources is going to just ignore any kind of safety of precautions, but it just strikes us as a risk that’s unnecessary and offers up no reward.”

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