Canadian Blood Services deal imperils voluntary public blood system and public trust
The Canadian Blood Services has announced an agreement with Grifols, a huge for-profit international plasma company to undertake, on CBS’s behalf, that which CBS has always denied it would do: pay Canadians for plasma.
The Canadian Health Coalition denounces this decision and the secrecy surrounding it. Plasma is a voluntarily donated public resource that can be manufactured into plasma products that are ounce-for-ounce worth more than gold.
“This decision of the Canadian Blood Services Board reflects irresponsible stewardship of our public blood supply system, allowing commercialization on a massive scale,” says Pauline Worsfold, RN, and chair of the Canadian Health Coalition. “The failure of CBS to uphold its mandate to operate a voluntary public blood supply system is unacceptable.”
The Canadian Health Coalition fears the impending deal lacks legislated limits to protect the sustainability of the public system from encroachment by large-scale commercialization.
“A small number of commercial collection sites are not likely to have a negative effect on the national blood system supply chain. However, large-scale commercial growth—without appropriate controls—could encroach on the existing system for both blood and plasma collections.”
“Withholding public information on this major decision on managing a crucial public resource betrays public trust. Whether done by CBS or by their commercial agent, paying Canadians for plasma on this massive scale will imperil voluntary blood collection. The lack of open public dialogue prior to CBS’s final decision is a disgraceful betrayal of public trust,” says Dr. Michèle Brill-Edwards, former Health Canada regulator and Canadian Health Coalition board member.
Many options to improve voluntary plasma self-sufficiency are being used successfully by other countries such as Australia and France. Héma-Québec, the equivalent of CBS in Québec, has doubled self-sufficiency from 15% to 30% between 2016 and 2021, while CBS remained at 15% in the same time frame.
The damage done by such a deal goes well beyond the unacceptable decision to pay Canadians for their plasma. The secrecy and duplicity behind this deal undermine trust in the Canadian Blood Services itself.
Health Ministers are collectively responsible for faithful implementation of their 1998 agreement which created the Canadian Blood Services in the wake of the tainted blood scandal. Canadian Blood Services is a public agency entrusted to operate Canada’s voluntary blood supply system, other than in Quebec, with the safety of Canadians in mind.
The Canadian Health Coalition calls on the ministers to recommit to the voluntary public mandate of the Canadian Blood Services by dismissing the current CEO and Board of CBS, and installing new Directors and CEO to faithfully implement the 1998 agreement protecting the safety of Canadians. Restoring public trust via new leadership is vital to the operation of our voluntary public blood supply.
This article has been updated from a previous version to reflect the announcement made by Canadian Blood Services on Wednesday September 7, 2022, that it has reached an agreement with Grifols.