For-profit blood collection a slippery slope

Published on March 14, 2016

There are times we think health care should be taken out of the hands of politicians, and placed in the hands of…well, that’s a problem, isn’t it.

We could suggest doctors as the proper shepherds for our health system, but there aren’t enough of them and they should all be too busy. 

We could offer the job to the so-called health authorities, but their track record doesn’t fill anyone with confidence. It seems that any improvements, and there have been some, are made in spite of the health authorities.

Someone the other day suggested having business people take a look at how the health system works and, with a fresh eye, design a system that operates more efficiently.

You’d have to believe in the tooth fairy—and that it’s a health worker—to think our health system would be better based on a business model. In Canada, at least, health care isn’t primarily designed for profit and shouldn’t be.

Where profit becomes important—cast your eyes south—medicine becomes infected by problems such as insurance companies, a drive for quarterly earnings, and even some physician greed.

It is true that the best of American medicine is as good as it gets, but you need to be more than good to get it. Money talks.

So it’s worrisome that Health Minister Leo Glavine sees no problem with creation of a private, for-profit blood system where people can sell their blood.

Canada Plasma Resources (CRS) is lobbying provincial governments to be allowed to set up a for-profit blood system in Nova Scotia.  Such clinics would buy blood from individuals, putting the voluntary blood system operated by Canadian Blood Services in jeopardy, while raising safety concerns. 

Reports last week noted that CRS initially tried to open three clinics in Ontario, but the Liberal government there passed legislation making the clinics illegal.

Prior to introducing the legislation, Ontario health minister Eric Hoskins said it would safeguard the integrity of the existing voluntary system. “It's a bit of a slippery slope once you start offering people compensation for donating.”

The Nova Scotia Health Coalition says a private, for-profit blood system raises extreme safety concerns due to lack of accountability, potential improper screening of donors, and the inability to test for new diseases like the Zika virus.

Returning to our original point about whose hands should control the health care system, there really isn’t any answer in the end other than politicians—but only because the electorate can hold them accountable.

Could we hold a for-profit system accountable? Bloody unlikely.