In a chilly room, the CEO of a private company that collects plasma from blood points to a white freezer where the plasma will be stored in the new Saskatoon facility—the company’s first collection centre in Canada.
Canadian Plasma Resources (CPR) extracts only plasma, the liquid in which red and white blood cells are suspended, during the donation process and uses it to manufacture products that help people with conditions including immune deficiencies and a variety of rare disorders.
Donors get compensated with $25 gift cards. It’s a practice some say is unfair, arguing it exploits low-income people and could detract from voluntary blood donations.
But the provincial government assured CPR it would not create legislation banning paid donations, something the Ontario government has done. Health Minister Dustin Duncan pointed out that although Ontario prevented the collection of plasma on a paid basis, it did not pass legislation to ban the importation of plasma products that came from a paid donor.
About 80 per cent of the plasma Canadians receive is from American donors who are compensated.
“The position that has been taken by some that as long as Canadians aren’t being paid for their plasma, if it’s Americans then we’re fine with it and we’ll accept the plasma, it’s certainly not the position that I take,” Duncan said.
He argues the plasma clinic isn’t competing with regular blood donations because Canadian Blood Services doesn’t collect plasma in Saskatchewan.
It’s also more of a commitment for people to donate plasma than blood, Duncan said. The total process for an applicant donor takes about two hours, with 40 minutes spent in the chair.
“Plasma is a different process. It’s a longer process, there’s more that goes into screening people. I think it just compensates people for the greater inconvenience as opposed to a blood donation,” he said.
CPR’s CEO, Dr. Barzin Bahardoust, said only people who live in Saskatoon or within 100 kilometres of the city can donate in order to build a reliable base of frequent donors. The company hopes to eventually open a clinic in Regina.
He said people are notified about the risks associated with donating plasma, which are similar to red blood cell donation in that some people may feel dizzy or uncomfortable. In the case of an adverse reaction, Bahardoust said trained staff can provide immediate care.
Those interested in donating can go to the clinic at 1222 Quebec Avenue in the Kelsey-Woodlawn neighbourhood, where an assessment will determine if people are eligible to donate. The four layers of screening include an interview, a medical examination and two separate rounds of testing within a 16-week period.
Once someone has become a qualified donor, they can give plasma as often as once a week.