Private plasma donor clinic opens in Saskatoon
Federal Health Minister Jane Philpott is fending off calls to close a private, for-profit plasma donor clinic in Saskatchewan by saying Canada has one of the safest blood systems in the world.
"We have examined this in great detail and have confirmed that we are approaching this matter looking at the science and making sure that there are no compromises to the safety of the blood system," Philpott said Thursday in the House of Commons.
The federal NDP called on Ottawa to ban such clinics. New Democrat health critic Don Davies pointed out that an inquiry into the tainted blood scandal of the 1980s recommended against paid-donor blood clinics.
"Canadians rely on a blood supply system that puts safety and the public interest first," he said.
The political exchange came after Canadian Plasma Resources officially opened its doors Thursday in Saskatoon. The clinic plans to pay people with $25 gift cards for making plasma donations.
The centre will be inspected by Health Canada and has to comply with national regulations, including donor screening and testing.
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."
Plasma is the straw-coloured liquid portion of blood. Canadian Plasma Resources says donating typically takes one hour. Plasma collected will be used in other medical therapies, not for transfusions.
Saskatchewan Health Minister Dustin Duncan, who was at the clinic's opening, noted that 80 per cent of plasma used in Canada currently comes from paid donors, largely in the United States, but also in Europe.
He said paying for plasma donations could help increase "self-sufficiency when it comes to plasma here in Canada."
"I think it's just a simplistic argument to say that Canadians shouldn't be paid for their plasma donations when we rely heavily on donors (who are). They just happen not to be Canadians right now."
Unions have been among those calling for the Saskatchewan government to ban such clinics. Ontario did so when Canadian Plasma Resources tried to set up there.
The Canadian Union of Public Employees said earlier this month that human tissue should not be "turned into a commodity to be bought and sold."
The Saskatchewan Federation of Labour said Thursday that the clinics "present a number of moral, ethical and safety concerns."
Federation president Larry Hubich said in a news release that paying donors "compromises the safety of plasma, creates competition with our voluntary blood system and does not create self-sufficiency for the country."
Erin Harder with Canadian Immunodeficiencies Patient Organization said she has no concerns about the safety of plasma from paid donors because screening rules are in place.
"It's a way to draw in more donors," Harder said. "There's not as many willing to donate, so I think it would (help)."