The Canadian Union of Public Employees wants payment for blood plasma banned in Saskatchewan, as it is in Quebec and Ontario.

A private clinic in Saskatoon, Canadian Plasma Resources, will pay people 25 dollars each time they donate plasma. 

It's the yellow liquid component of blood, containing proteins and other substances, used to manufacture treatments for conditions such as burns and hemophilia.

CUPE Saskatchewan's president Tom Graham has written to Saskatchewan's health minister, pointing to a recommendation from the 1997 Krever inquiry into Canada's tainted blood scandal, that donors should not be paid.

'We don't see a for-profit need in Saskatchewan at this time.' - Gordon Campbell, CUPE

Graham's letter also notes that Saskatchewan has the highest rate of HIV and hepatitus C infection in the country, adding to the safety concern.

The president of CUPE Saskatchewan's Health Care Council, Gordon Campbell, echoes Graham's concern.

"We believe that there's a system in place right now where people can donate blood products willingly, that if there's an expansion to that service that we don't see a for-profit need in Saskatchewan at this time," Campbell said.

However, several powerful and influential bodies are lining up on the other side of the debate.

Canada not self-sufficient in plasma

Both Health Canada and Canadian Blood Services have said a lot has changed since the Krever inquiry, and adequate safety measures are in place to deal with paid plasma donations.

They have also said without paid donations, Canada cannot become self-sufficient in plasma products. 

According to the Canadian Hemophilia Society, "80 % of the Canadian and world supplies of plasma derived-products are manufactured from the plasma of paid donors, mainly from the U.S."

Durhane Wong-Rieger, president of the Canadian Organization for Rare Disorders, wrote:  "Whole blood donors typically donate only 1 or 2 times a year, but in order for a plasma collection program to be cost-effective, donors must be willing to contribute on a regular basis, often several times a month." She went on to write that anyone donating that regularly would want to be paid for his or her time.

Ethics concern raised

Saskatchewan's health minister, Dustin Duncan, said he's not considering a ban.

"We need to be more self-sufficient as a country and I think that this is one way to increase our levels of plasma that is derived from Canadians," Duncan said.

He also noted the CPR clinic is regulated and inspected by Health Canada.

"They are heavily regulated, not unlike Canadian Blood Services."

Still, CUPE has an ally in Saskatoon's Dr. Ryan Meili, who works in one of the city's struggling neighbourhoods.

He raises ethical concerns. 

"Are we really that comfortable with people living in poverty and selling their blood to make ends meet?" Meili commented. "Is that really where we've come to as a province?"

Meanwhile CUPE and the Saskatchewan Government Employees Union are also encouraging people to sign a parliamentary petition launched by Vancouver New Democrat MP Don Davies. It calls on the federal government to deny companies such as CPR a license, and to outlaw them.