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The Twisted Business of Donating Plasma

March 21, 2017

Since 2008, plasma pharmaceuticals have leapt from $4 billion to a more than $11 billion annual market. Donors desperate for the cash incentive from high-frequency “plassing” may be putting their health, and the public’s, at risk.
plasma

I needed the cash.
That was how I found myself laying in a plasma “donation” room filled with about 40 couches, each equipped with a blood pressure cuff and a centrifuge. A white-coated attendant (workers aren’t required to have medical or nursing degrees) pricked my arm. He separated my plasma from my whole blood into a large bottle, and returned my protein-depleted blood, which flowed back into my arm to rebuild my nutrient supply.

“My house is so noisy with four kids so I come here for my relaxation,” said a middle-aged, haggard-looking woman on the next couch, the plasmapheresis machine at her side whirring. A clinician instructed us both to pump and relax our fists, like cows milking our own udders.
Before leaving I received a calendar that mapped out my pay, if I maintained a twice-weekly schedule for subsequent donations. Even a $10 bonus on my next visit!

How did I get here? My rent was due. I had insufficient funds in the bank. I was 48-years-old, a journalist running short on cash from writing assignments and odd jobs. That was when I saw an ad offering $50 per plasma donation: blood money, or more specifically, payment for my time and any small pain involved in the process of having protein-rich plasma extracted from the blood. Regulars call it “plassing.”

Hospitals, Red Cross units, and nonprofit agencies reject the plasma center model because cash incentives may give donors an incentive to lie.
The ad I’d seen featuring smiling attendants suggested an experience similar to one at a sedate hospital. The facility I entered buzzed like a school lunchroom. There were first-timers waiting to complete the initial medical exam, and regulars hurrying to check in at automatic computer terminals. Easily 50 to 60 “plassers” were present at any given moment, the crowd continually ebbing and flowing. All were like me — hopeful, needy, and impatient to get paid.

I received an oral examination. I was not surprised by the many questions about my sexual behavior, but I was taken aback by repeated questions regarding tattoos. Three times I was asked if I had lied and “really” had tattoos. After the clinicians tested a blood sample for protein levels, I underwent a bare-bones medical checkup. But I questioned its efficiency given that my examiner ran through scores of questions so fast I had to ask him to repeat himself. I spotted a sign: NO PAYMENT UNLESS DONATION IS COMPLETED.
“Plassers” receive payments on a special debit card that extracts a surcharge whenever they use it. Curiously, while my examiner hurried me through the screening, he did patiently lay out the payment scheme. Did he know how desperate I was? His “Don’t worry. You’ll pass” attitude may have expressed condescension, unprofessionalism, or benevolence.

My extraction went smoothly. I left with a ray of hope that I could “plass” next month’s rent money. The literature provided at U.S. centers ubiquitously states that “donating plasma is safe.” Its side effects are limited to “mild faintness and bruising.” (My brochure also added, “Other possible side effects will be explained by our medical staff,” though I can’t say any such explanation stayed with me.) But the following day my body received an impromptu schooling in the price tag of the world I had entered.

It happened at about five o’clock the next day. Unexpectedly, with no apparent cause or logical relationship to physical exertion, I felt my legs go rubbery. I was Silly Putty. This was something more than “mild faintness” and particularly disturbing because of the aspect of a random attack. I suddenly felt so weirdly fatigued that I couldn’t stand on my feet. I barely reached the couch before I passed out for five hours straight. Luckily, I was safely ensconced at home. But since I substitute teach as well as freelance write I woke up wondering: What would I do if that happened at my day job?
What had happened? I had received my welcoming to the subtle physical changes, possibly exacerbated by work and poverty, which may be the upshot of plassing. And my research began.
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Alberta passes legislation banning payment for blood donation

March 21, 2017

Alberta has joined the provinces of Ontario and Quebec in banning payment for the collection of blood or plasma from donors.

Alberta Health Minister Sarah Hoffman commented, “Donating blood should not be viewed as a business venture, but as a public resource that saves lives every day.”

The legislation protects Alberta’s voluntary blood donation system, banning payment to donors and advertising for paid donations.

SOHC urges the BC government to join Alberta, Ontario and Quebec and pass similar legislation. (click on the following link to read SOHC’s position paper on the subject of paying for plasma)
Do Blood and Money Mix – SOHC position paper

Report on Princeton’s Specialist Care

March 20, 2017

To read about specialists visiting Princeton please click the link below.

Princeton Access to SPs Phase 1 Report Sept.2015
shared care

Excerpt:
AIM
The aim of the Princeton Access to Specialist Care project was to improve and sustain access to specialist care in the Princeton area, and to support Princeton family physicians.

Patients from Princeton with significant health concerns often need to travel to Penticton or Kelowna for investigations and specialist appointments.

Barriers to travel prevent about 30% of Princeton area patients from receiving specialist care, creating an added burden on rural family doctors. Initiated in the fall of 2013, the intention of the project is to improve health outcomes and quality of life of Princeton patients, and to increase the likelihood of retaining Princeton family physicians.

INTENDED OUTCOMES
• Increase number and variety of specialist clinics in Princeton
• Improve processes, knowledge transfer, and relationships between specialists, family physicians, other healthcare providers and patients
Improve physician, healthcare provider and patient experience

MAJOR OBJECTIVES
An interdisciplinary project team, including representatives from Princeton family physicians, Penticton specialists, their MOAs, Princeton General Hospital (PGH) management and staff, Community Integrated Health Services administration, and Shared Care project staff set out to:
• Develop, implement and test outreach clinic formats to provide appropriate specialist care in Princeton
• Provide Princeton physicians with customized education and relationship-building opportunities through on-site CMEs (Continuing Medical Education) with visiting specialists
• Engage feedback from physicians, healthcare providers and patients about their experience with the new approaches to care

ART for HEALTH

March 20, 2017

DSC_2114
In the Princeton Health Care Action Framework (July, 2013), the development of a “more welcoming and healing space for patients in the health care buildings” was identified as an important component.

An aesthetic improvement working group called ‘Art for Health’  was formed, comprising Nienke Klaver, Merrilyn Huycke, Susan Delatour, and Ed Staples.

There is extensive evidence supporting the benefits of enhancing health care facilities for patients:

In a 2002 study completed by Chelsea and Westminster Hospital in the UK, they concluded that “placing original artworks within the healthcare environment can:

  • reduce levels of anxiety, stress and depression
  • reduce patientsʼ length of stay in the hospital
  • reduce the use of some medications
  • improve communication between patients and healthcare professionals”

On March 13 Merrilyn Huycke’s mural was installed in the lobby of the hospital. This is the fourth project of the ‘Art for Health’ committee. The first 3 being: a Japanese garden at the entrance of the hospital, a Children’s Corner at Cascade Medical Clinic, and several new framed posters in the hallways. Staples is currently fashioning a ceramic tile mural for the nurses station.

While none of the contributing artists are paid for their creations, the Princeton Arts Council is reimbursing the artists for most materials.
DSC_2111

Blood and Politics

March 19, 2017

On March 7, 2017, the Similkameen Spotlight newspaper published an opinion piece by Tom Fletcher on Canada’s blood system (click on the link below to read the full article).

Fake news and the blood system

The following  is SOHC’s response that appeared in the March 15, 2017 issue of the Spotlight:

We would like to comment on the article in the March 8, 2017 issue of The Similkameen Spotlight – BC VIEWS: Fake news and the blood system written by Mr. Tom Fletcher.

Parts of the article express political views, including the nature of the BC Health Coalition. Mr. Fletcher has a right to his opinions, which he has expressed clearly. He is correct that the BCHC has membership from union-related organizations – 21 of them. What he fails to mention is that there are 30 other member organizations comprising groups such as pensioners, community organizations and societies (including our own). The implication that union membership in the BCHC prevents it from acting in the best interests of British Columbians is unfounded and biased.

We support Mr. Fletcher’s position that information should be accurate. We agree with him that there is no reason at this time to view commercially produced blood products, regardless of origin, as being unsafe. The Canadian “blood scandal” of the 1980s and the subsequent Krever commission findings secured a world-wide convulsive attention to blood processing of all types.

What Mr. Fletcher’s article does not address is the issue of public accountability for ongoing safety of the blood system as a whole and blood products specifically.
The current and future safety of the blood and blood products supply should not be taken for granted.
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Report on Pain Management Seminar – Princeton, BC

March 19, 2017

pdf Report on Princeton Pain Management Seminar
At the beginning of the seminar the audience was asked to complete the following information:

1. Why did you come to this pain management seminar?

2. What are you hoping to take away from this evening? Pain Management Questionnaire

At the end of the evening the participants were asked to fill in the following evaluation questions:

1. Did you find this seminar helpful? (circle one)

2. How could future pain management seminars be improved?

3. What is missing in our community? What suggestions do you have to improve services for people living with pain?

Pain Management Seminar – March 8

March 4, 2017

pdf Pain management poster

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SOHC Discussion Paper

Developing an Improved and Sustainable Health Care Model for Princeton, B.C
Support Our Health Care has released a discussion paper in order to get feedback from the community, politicians and professionals about the state of local healthcare and what the long term solutions should be.
Download PDF Here