Nova Scotia says it has no plans to ban paid blood collection

·3 min read
A plan by Canadian Blood Services to set up a private blood plasma collection system to augment the organization's volunteer efforts has some people worried. (Denis Charlet/AFP via Getty Images - image credit)
A plan by Canadian Blood Services to set up a private blood plasma collection system to augment the organization's volunteer efforts has some people worried. (Denis Charlet/AFP via Getty Images - image credit)

The Nova Scotia government says it has no plans to ban Nova Scotians from selling their blood to private corporations.

That's as a safe-blood advocate sounds an alarm about the possible arrival of for-profit plasma collection in Nova Scotia.

"The market commercialization of human tissue drives the market and, in a way, that is not conducive to running a safe public system because it makes the product competitive instead of a public-health resource that's managed for the public," said Kat Lanteigne of bloodwatch.org, a national non-profit organization that advocates for blood safety.

Lanteigne said the organization represents hundreds of patients, health-care professionals and survivors of Canada's tainted blood scandal of the 1980s, which saw more than 30,000 Canadians infected by HIV and hepatitis C.

Andy Hincenbergs/CBC
Andy Hincenbergs/CBC

On Sept. 7, Canadian Blood Services announced a deal with Spain-based multinational Grifols to set up a private blood plasma collection system to augment supply from volunteers.

Donors will be paid for their plasma, and Grifols will process it in Canada for sale to the domestic market..

"This is about pharmaceutical security of supply," said Canadian Blood Services spokesperson Delphine Denis in an email statement.

Canadian Blood Services says Canada could run short of supply without the deal with Grifols.

"Our priority is to ensure that life-saving immunoglobulin products remain available for patients in Canada," Denis said.

Safety fears

The Canadian Federation of Nurses has spoken against the plan.

The Nova Scotia Nurses' Union is also against privatizing blood collection.

"It would be deeply troubling to see the introduction of private collection clinics in this province, putting profits above ethics, and potentially opening the door to other private health-related enterprise," said union president Janet Hazelton.

"These actions exploit the vulnerable and call into question the future of other health services in Nova Scotia."

Robert Short/CBC
Robert Short/CBC

The head of the Nova Scotia Government and General Employees Union also has concerns.

"We're concerned for the blood supply, the protection of the safe blood supply," union president Sandra Mullen said. "I don't know if we have to remind folks about the road that we've been through previously."

A federal commission of inquiry concluded blood should be treated as a public resource, and no one should be paid to donate blood or plasma.

Risk management

Canadian Blood Services says it performed a risk analysis in 2020 and 2021 on the security of Canada's plasma and immunoglobulin supply.

The analysis concluded the way forward was through "leveraging both not-for-profit and commercial sectors" to help Canada reach up to 60 per cent self-sufficiency in plasma supply.

"Undertaking additional risk-mitigation measures with urgency" was another recommendation.

Recent visit

British Columbia, Ontario and Quebec all have legislation banning payment for blood or plasma donations.

In an email, Nova Scotia's Department of Health and Wellness said there are no plans to move in that direction.

"In Nova Scotia, we will continue to monitor what is happening in other provinces and territories but at this time, legislation to ban paid collection of blood or blood products is not being considered," spokesperson Khalehla Perrault said.

David Laughlin/CBC
David Laughlin/CBC

Perrault said the CEO of Canadian Blood Services, Dr. Graham Sher, did not reveal anything specific about paid blood clinics in Nova Scotia when he met with Health Minister Michelle Thompson at a Canadian Blood Services facility in Dartmouth, N.S., on Thursday.

Lanteigne said a visit from Sher in other provinces is often followed by the announcement of private clinics within two or three weeks.

Canadian Blood Services would not disclose if Grifols plans to open paid plasma donation centres in Nova Scotia, or on what timeline.

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