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Healthcare activists hold information picket on pay-for-plasma clinics

KJIPUKTUK (Halifax) – About 20 healthcare activists and Canadian Blood Services workers joined an information picket at Scotia Square in downtown Halifax this morning to protest the potential arrival of a private, for-profit blood supply system.

Canadian Plasma Resources (CPR), a Saskatchewan company that pays plasma donors, has announced that it hopes to set up shop in Nova Scotia.

Introducing a for-profit company into our health system, and paying donors for giving blood doesn’t sit well with the protesters.

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“We think that Canadian Blood Services (CBS) should be making the effort to collect sufficient blood plasma through the volunteer method,” says Ron Ron Stockton.

Stockton is  business agent for the Nova Scotia Union of Public and Private Employees (NSUPE), representing Nova Scotia and PEI employees of CBS. CBS is the national not-for-profit organization that manages the blood supply.

“The answer to shortages is not to start paying for it here, the answer is to implement a program to start collecting it on a volunteer basis,” says Stockton. “But instead we have seen CBS cutting back on its clinics and staff, while they should be expanding these services.”

Stockton also believes that safety of the blood supply is an issue if private clinics were to be introduced. That risk would be better managed by a single organization such as CBS.

“There is always the risk of bloodborne disease. We believe volunteer donations lessens that risk. The risk may be small, but the potential damage will be huge,” says Stockton.

The process of plasma donation is similar to that of donating blood, but the cells are returned to the donor during the process, and only the plasma is taken. The process takes longer, but people can give more frequently. The plasma is used as as a substitute for whole blood and for transfusion purposes.

Ian Johnson is the vice chair of the Nova Scotia Citizens’ Health Care Network. He is also a frequent blood donor.

I am worried about the entire idea of a for-profit coming in to run this when we have a very effective not-for-profit blood service,” Johnson says.

“We don’t know what will happen to the plasma, whether it will be for export or for other purposes. We have enough trouble as it is getting sufficient donors and and adequate supply, and this could effectively undermine that,” Johnson says.

Johnson, who is active in several anti-poverty groups is no fan of paying for blood donations.

In other jurisdictions similar clinics have tended to open up in poor neighborhoods.

Drawing people in and exploiting them, just so the company can make a profit, it’s sort of a payday loan version of blood services,” Johnson says.

Ontario and Quebec have made pay-for-plasma clinics illegal. The protesters want Nova Scotia to follow suit but Health minister Leo Glavine says he has no such intention.

Four CBS employees from Charlottetown, PEI, joined the information picket.  The women have been on strike for close to seven months now.

The workers want a guaranteed minimum number of hours of work each week. That would provide some much needed economic certainty in their lives. And it would allow them to qualify for health benefits.

See also: Say no to pay-for-plasma clinics – Send Health & Wellness Minister Leo Glavine a personalized message and let him know you are opposed to for-profit blood clinics.