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March 21st 2019 - Bill S-252, Voluntary Blood Donations Act (An Act to amend the Blood Regulations) - Canadian Blood Services & Héma-Québec

Senator Poirier: I agree. Even if the bill is short and simple, it has been a complex issue and an educational one. During the process we’ve learned a lot and I’m sure anyone following the proceeding of the committee would also agree that we as Canadians have learned a lot about plasma donations over the time.

I have a couple of questions. A lot of them have been addressed or other people have brought up but I want to get back to the proposed bill. The proposed bill in proposed subsection (1.1) says:

An establishment, other than Canadian Blood Services, must not collect allogeneic blood for remuneration or benefit for the donor unless the blood collected is of a rare phenotype.

I know, from listening to the CBS position on this, your goal would be to be able to collect what we need without having to remunerate. If I’m understanding this, it also in the bill would give you the ability to be able and be the only group that could remunerate if ever you decide to at a future time. And I believe the Winnipeg organization, because of what they’re collecting, would be okay through this bill, but if I’m understanding right it would possibly affect the shutting of the New Brunswick one.

Can you please confirm if my thoughts are right on this? And would you in the future look at this as something that would give you the ability to maybe compensate with incentives of some type the people that would collect?

Dr. Sher: Your conclusions are correct, senator, and in line with our thinking. This goes back to what Justice Krever called payment in special or rare circumstances. That is what the Winnipeg facility has been doing for decades and we believe they would be granted that exemption under this legislation. So I’m not sure it would have the impact quite to the extent that Dr. Ballem describes but, again, it grants us the exemption should we ever decide from a policy position to go there. And you’ve heard from many other witnesses here, including some of the lawyers yesterday and some of the other groups, that if anyone ought to pay in this country it ought to be the public sector and Canadian Blood Services.

That is not our position. We’re building a non-remunerated model, but we have to reserve that right should this never achieve success any other way, and that’s the essence of how we read it now.

Senator Poirier: Because the Province of New Brunswick, or each of the provinces, has the ability in their own legislation to allow a company to come in — and New Brunswick has made the decision to allow it — I’m wondering that if this bill would be passed as is, does this mean that we’re closing the one in New Brunswick? There have been a lot of concerns about it. I have heard it over and over, and more in the beginning than lately. Where would the provincial law come in here? It’s the provincial legislation that gives the authority for the company to be in New Brunswick yet this legislation would say that they can’t. I’m questioning that and I’m sure none of you have the answer to that.

Dr. Sher: I can’t answer that.

Senator Poirier: That would be a question for the future.

In the documents provided to the committee it states that the CBS submitted a business plan to the federal-provincial-territorial governments which outlines the looming risk to the security of the plasma supply. Could you please give us more detail on that plan? Will you be collaborating with Héma-Québec, who has already an established plasma centre in the province? Is that part of the plan also? Could you highlight that?

Dr. Sher: We submitted a comprehensive business plan in 2017 to the provincial and territorial governments that looked at the soup-to-nuts solution, so building multiple centres across the country. The challenge we had at that time was that we were using our existing cost structure and our existing model. When Dr. Ballem and the panel observed correctly that the evidence before them suggested the non-remunerated public sector was going to operate at two to four times the private sector price, that was the observation based on our business plan. So we agree with that.

As I said in my remarks, we have subsequently gone back to the drawing board. We have collaborated not only with Héma-Québec but with colleagues in Australia, who had multiple up centres up and running, with colleagues in Netherlands and elsewhere, where they were doing likewise. We are seeking to leverage the learning and the expertise from the commercial sector. We really do believe that the three sites we’re now beginning to operate, starting this coming fiscal year, will demonstrate that we can collect a litre of plasma at what we’re calling a market proximate price essentially in line with the commercial price of plasma on the world market today. That’s what is most essential, because all funding governments don’t have limitless dollars. This cannot be done at any cost. We completely agree.

Senator Poirier: How long do you think it will take you to get your centres up and running?

Dr. Sher: We have committed these three sites to our provincial funding governments. Over the next three to five years, we will demonstrate the volume they can achieve and the cost at which they can achieve that, and if we can demonstrate that, we then believe it is a scalable model until we achieve the sufficiency level we need.

Senator Poirier: How long do you think it will take to get to that 50 per cent?

Dr. Sher: I think it was Senator Forest-Niesing who said earlier 2024. That was in the original business plan. It’s probably several years beyond that.

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