Mr. Speaker, I too want to thank the member for the work and effort that has gone in to bringing forward Bill S-220, an act that proposes the designation of the week in which June 14 occurs be national blood donor week.
It is interesting that 192 other countries around the world, members of the World Health Organization, have already declared the week of June 14 as National Blood Donor Week. It makes sense that Canada, as a country that prides itself on our health care system and that and wants people to be treated quickly, efficiently and to the best of our ability, would follow the lead of those 192 WHO countries.
There is a need for greater awareness in the public in regard to the importance of blood donation and, of course, organ donation as well. The statistics in regard to blood donation in Canada are very telling. Fifty-two per cent of Canadians have required blood or blood products for themselves or a family member and yet the donation rate is still hovering at around only 4% of eligible donors.
More than 20,000 blood donor clinics are held every year, with a total of 1.1 million units of blood collected annually, but those clinics still see only 4% of eligible donors. Clearly, there is a need to raise awareness among Canadians because a plentiful supply of blood is an important factor in answering the health needs of Canadians.
Availability also plays a significant role in keeping wait times down, since blood is required for many treatments, including transplants. A liver transplant needs up to 100 units; other organs about 10 units; auto accidents up to 50 units; coronary bypass surgery, one to five units; and cancer, up to eight units every week. The number of these treatments has been increasing steadily and, therefore, the demand for blood is also increasing.
We need to have an effective response to that need. We are obliged to provide a reminder to people about the importance of donating blood and organs so it becomes part of the mindset of all those eligible donors. We often hear the news reports and ads on the radio about the need for blood. On long weekends during the nice weather, more blood is needed because more people are on the road and there are more accidents.
There is a small surge of people who donate blood because the ads on the radio have reminded them that they may be required to help. They go in and donate blood but they do not make it part of their annual routine, and that is what really needs to happen.
Another part of this bill deals with bone marrow donation. Bone marrow is considered part of blood donation. It is not that people actually give bone marrow but they do sign up. The truth is that we have major challenges around bone marrow transplants because the registry needs to be quite significant in order to support a very mixed Canadian population. Because of our diversity, people often have not been able to find a bone marrow match and these people die, which is a tragedy.
This legislation would allow a much bigger registry. It does not mean that all those people would donate bone marrow, because that is a very serious decision, but at least there would be more people to ask.
In addition to the encouragement for blood, bone marrow and organ donation is the need to ensure that transfusions and donations are safe. We must always think of the safety of the recipient of a blood or organ transplant, and must never risk either health or safety. Strict screening practices must be in place that secure the safety of the blood and tissue supply.
This, of course, brings me to what Canadians have a right to expect from their institutions when it comes to secure, responsive blood and tissue supplies and a secure, responsive health care system, a system for everyone. There must be more doctors and nurses and more training spaces for health care providers to expand the pool of skilled professionals able to provide those services.
In addition to a reliable blood supply, we need to control drug costs by phasing in a national prescription drug strategy to help families afford the medications they need and phase out the evergreening of patent drugs so that cheaper generics are available sooner, saving money for patients, hospitals and provinces. We need to stop privatization and forge a new deal with provinces that links reliable federal health transfers to commitments that such funding will not subsidize for profit health care.
A secure blood supply, like our efforts to promote real dignity for seniors, is part of a strong medicare system. Free dental care and drug coverage for everyone over 65, expansion of long term care options for the thousands of seniors and families waiting for such care, as well as shorter wait times, are part of what we want to put in place in Canada.
The policies I have referred to today are among the kinds of changes New Democrats wish to see, changes that get results for ordinary people, those needing donated blood and bone marrow, seniors, young families.
Declaring the week of June 14 as national blood donor week is incredibly important, but only if action around awareness comes with it. We have to get more of that information out to Canadians, at least to younger people. We need blood donation to become part of their routine activities to ensure long term supply.
I wish to extend my gratitude to the member who brought forward Bill S-220. I am pleased to stand and support all my colleagues in having the week of June 14 declared national blood donor week.