New Brunswick

Saint John vows to continue blood fight

People fighting to keep a blood distribution centre in Saint John have vowed to continue fighting in hopes of reversing the provincial government's decision to continue its relationship with Canadian Blood Services.

Hope to reverse government decision to say with CBS

Canadian Blood Services is planning to move blood production from New Brunswick to Nova Scotia. (CBC)
People fighting to keep a blood distribution centre in Saint John have vowed to continue in hopes of reversing the provincial government's decision to keep working with Canadian Blood Services.

On Friday, Health Minister Madeleine Dubé announced the province has abandoned any plans to create a stand-alone blood agency once CBS closes the blood processing and delivery clinic in Saint John and consolidates operations in Dartmouth, N.S., by 2012.

Dubé said it would be too expensive and the province is in a "precarious financial position."

Saint John Mayor Ivan Court isn't convinced.

"They're using that as justification, but they also had facts to show them that there were dollars to be saved every year," he said.

"They're giving financial reasons and ignoring the safety concerns that this change presents. That causes grave concern. And that's why we've continually asked for an inquiry into this, and we also want an injunction to have this stopped."

Meanwhile, politicians, doctors and union officials who oppose the closure plan to push ahead with a symposium, slated for Jan. 24 in Saint John.

The town-hall style event will bring together people who want to see blood production services enhanced in the city, not reduced, said Court, who chairs the committee.

National CUPE representative Mike Davidson, who also sits on the committee, hopes government officials will attend the symposium to get what he called  "a full and complete picture."

Although about 32 employees have received layoff notices, it's not about jobs, or money, said Davidson. "This is a safety issue," he said.

"This wouldn't be the first decision of any government that got reversed and you know this is a critical decision. This is a medical system that relies upon blood products and we do not want to have patients, families or physicians being placed in a situation where they're looking at an old bag of blood and not a fresh bag of blood and knowing it could harm their patients, but it's all they've got because this system is what it is and having devastating effects.

"We want to avoid that at all costs. We want to build a better system…We can't be taking it apart and dismantling it because CBS wants to save money," said Davidson.

"Hopefully the government will realize that this is of utmost importance and fulfill their election promise not to allow CBS to leave the province of New Brunswick."

Dr. Andrea Garland is concerned that blood products won't be able to reach patients in time and that lives could be lost. (CBC)
Dr. Andrea Garland, the past-president of the medical staff organization in Saint John, is also hoping the government will reconsider.

"It's not over till it's over," she said.

Garland and other doctors have repeatedly raised concerns that blood products won't be able to reach patients in time and that lives could be lost.

"It's concerning because we have had an excellent facility here, which has serviced our population very well from a safety perspective," she said.

"I know what we have now, and we have a very good system, there's no question in my mind about that, and we wanted that enhanced. We don't want anything less than that."

Meanwhile, the New Brunswick Medical Society is urging the provincial government to expedite the establishment of a monitoring program to ensure the supply and distribution of blood products is appropriately managed.

The medical society had previously recommended such a program to help set targets during the implementation of the CBS facilities redevelopment plan and to ensure that blood services in New Brunswick keep pace with the continued growth of new and emerging medical services.

"We are pleased that the province of New Brunswick has committed to this and has invited collaboration from the medical community," it said in a statement released Friday afternoon.

"The New Brunswick Medical Society is ready to work with the province of New Brunswick and Canadian Blood Services to ensure that patients throughout New Brunswick continue to receive top quality blood products when and where they are needed."