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Canada's blood system in danger, NUPGE calls for end to CBS paid-plasma deal

"The CBS Board and CEO have betrayed the trust of Canadians by contracting with a for-profit company to collect plasma in Canada. Paying for plasma has been shown to harm voluntary collection of both blood and plasma. The consequences of this contract could destroy the security and integrity of our blood and plasma supply."  — Bert Blundon, NUPGE President

Ottawa (12 Sept. 2022) — The National Union of Public and General Employees (NUPGE) is denouncing the Canadian Blood Services (CBS) Board and Executive for signing a secret contract with Grifols, a global plasma corporation. The 15-year deal will rapidly expand paid plasma in Canada. 

Violation of CBS mandate and Krever Commission recommendations

This move by CBS is a direct contradiction of the Krever Commission recommendations against paid-plasma and the terms of the original 1997 Federal/Provincial/Territorial Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) that led to the creation of Canadian Blood Services. The MOU clearly mandates that Canada’s national blood system should maintain and protect its voluntary donor base as it strives for self-sufficiency in the collection of blood and plasma.

Global consensus against paid blood and plasma

The EU, World Health Organization, Red Cross and experts around the world concur that blood and blood products, including plasma, must be collected on an unpaid, voluntary basis. Paying for blood or plasma targets vulnerable populations and is an incentive for people to lie about their health status. This puts both donors and the blood supply at increased risk. Canada explicitly bans paying for blood and tissue, but there are loopholes for plasma which are being exploited by CBS and Grifols.

CBS knows paid plasma threatens the blood supply

CBS is fully aware of the danger paid plasma presents to the voluntary donation system. In a submission to the Senate of Canada, dated March 13, 2019, CBS stated:

... Purchasing raw plasma collected by for-profit, commercial plasma collectors who pay their donors is not aligned with the founding blood system principles that remain in force today.

... We are aware of growing concerns in the U.S. that the continual expansion of commercial enterprises that pay donors is impacting whole blood collections from unpaid donors, a concern referred to as "crowding out.

It is the emergence of large-scale commercial for-profit collectors that is the concern — Internationally, it has been discussed that when for-profit, paid plasma systems expand rapidly, they can reduce the ability of the not-for-profit blood industry to meet its blood collection targets.

CBS, through this contract, has undermined and is threatening to destroy the very system it has been entrusted to protect.

Provincial governments trying to stop paid plasma

Provincial governments, in an attempt to protect Canada's blood and plasma supply, have enacted laws to ban paid plasma. The 4 largest provinces, representing over 80% of Canadians, had versions of a Voluntary Blood Donations Act banning paid plasma. A change in government caused Alberta to rescind this law, but still almost 75% of Canadians are protected from paid plasma being used in operations because of laws in Canada's 3 largest provinces. In a betrayal of the public trust and against the enacted laws of these governments, CBS has engineered a contract with Grifols to undermine these provincial laws.

CEO admits contract allows loophole undermining provincial laws banning paid plasma

A loophole in these provincial acts allows agents of CBS to collect paid plasma. Graham Sher, CEO of CBS, has designated this multi-national company an agent of CBS to use this loophole to circumvent the bans in Ontario and in British Columbia. CBS is not allowed to operate in Quebec.

The Globe and Mail reports, "Graham Sher, the chief executive officer of CBS, said it is his understanding that the deal with Grifols will allow the company to circumvent the bans in Ontario and B.C."

The Globe and Mail further states: "When asked why CBS granted a de-facto monopoly on paid plasma collection in the 2 provinces, Dr. Sher said he was not at liberty to explain that decision because of the commercial sensitivities in how the agency evaluated companies' bids for the contract."

"It is unconscionable that CBS is effectively colluding with this for-profit company to allow it to operate in contradiction of Canadian law," says Blundon. 

NUPGE workers stand against CBS deal

NUPGE represents more than 400,000 workers across Canada, with many of them employed in health care, including those employed by CBS. This deal with Grifols represents a privatization of the Canadian blood and plasma system and is in violation of the mandates under which CBS was created.

NUPGE and its Components stand firmly against this deal. The Ontario Public Service Employees Union (OPSEU/SEFPO/NUPGE) has released a statement denouncing this deal with Grifols and going further, calling for the resignation of the CEO of CBS, Graham Sher.