Nurses question federal health minister's decision to allow unregulated
workers to screen potential blood donors

TORONTO, April 6 /CNW/ - The Ontario Nurses' Association (ONA) has joined the Canadian Federation of Nurses Unions (CFNU) in questioning the decision of federal health minister Leona Aglukkaq to allow Canadian Blood Services to conduct a pilot project to replaces nurses with low-skilled workers for initial blood donor screening.

The decision to allow low-skilled, unregulated workers to assess donor safety as a pilot project was communicated to Canadian Blood Services last Thursday before the long weekend. Nurses' unions across the country are calling for a transparent, independent and thorough evaluation of the questionable changes to blood donor screening.

Nurses have reviewed the proposal with which the Minister made her decision and concluded that there is no compelling evidence to suggest that this change is needed or safe. RNs have the education, skills and experience required to identify potential donors who may not be qualified to donate blood and are highly regulated as a profession, ensuring confidentiality for donors.

"The Minister needs to explain how eliminating nurses from direct donor screening will make the blood supply and client experience safer," says ONA President Linda Haslam-Stroud, RN. "The findings of the Krever Commission showed that the drive for cost efficiencies can jeopardize blood safety, yet it looks like that is exactly what Canadian Blood Services is doing - trying to save money while risking the safety of our blood supply. We can see no other reason for this change."

The Krever Commission report also noted that, "the screening of potential donors has become even more expensive and intrusive. Careful screening is essential to maintain a safe blood supply and it must continue."

The CFNU commissioned an external researcher on blood donation and found that:

    -   nurses and/or doctors are routinely used to screen potential blood
        donors abroad, contrary to claims by CBS that they are not;
    -   there is no evidence that the use of less-skilled, unregulated
        workers would not jeopardize the blood supply or donor health; and
    -   employers such as Canadian Blood Services could address retention and
        recruitment issues by improving the quality of the workplace.

"Research shows that cutting nurses out of direct care in other health care sectors results in greater rates of errors and worsening health outcomes. Why would blood donation be any different?" asks Linda Silas, President of the Canadian Federation of Nurses Unions.

ONA and the CFNU launched a website, in January 2010 to help document how nurses' clinical experience and training minimize risk to the blood supply. We are calling for an intensive and transparent evaluation process of the introduction of unregulated workers into donor screening.

The Ontario Nurses' Association is the union representing 55,000 registered nurses and allied health professionals and more than 12,000 nursing student affiliates providing care in hospitals, long-term care facilities, public health, the community, clinics and industry.

SOURCE Ontario Nurses' Association

For further information: For further information: Sheree Bond, ONA, (416) 964-8833, ext. 2430 or Cell: (416) 926-8240; CFNU, (613) 526-4661 or (613) 292-9106

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