Héma-Québec receives American Association of Tissue Banks accreditation

Montréal, April 15, 2005 — Héma-Québec received American Association of Tissue Banks (AATB) accreditation for the collection, processing, storage and distribution of musculoskeletal tissue and the collection of cardiac tissue. The AATB currently is the only reference institution in terms of standards governing human tissue banks in North America. By successfully meeting the requirements of the U.S. organization, Héma-Québec becomes one of a hundred establishments having received this accreditation worldwide. Note that Héma-Québec, as a supplier of blood products, is the first to receive this accreditation in Canada.

In autumn 2001, the Minister of Health and Social Services officially recognized Héma-Québec’s ability to process and distribute human tissues by allowing it to extend its operations to human tissues; handling tissues poses similar risks to those for processing blood products. Convinced that Héma-Québec was able to professionally ensure a safe supply of human tissue, the Minister authorized the organization to use all necessary means in realizing this new mission.

Necessary step for the development of a human tissue collection and distribution network, the AATB accreditation was received following a thorough inspection, including an audit held from February 14 to 16, 2005, of the new Héma-Québec facility on the Université Laval campus. This recognition program is proof that all medical, technical and administrative aspects of the facilities meet, if not exceed, the standards set by the AATB.

The AATB has been accrediting human tissue banks since 1986. Its current accreditation process and standards are the only ones available in the industry for the United States and Canada. AATB accreditation ensures that human tissue bank methods, processes, personnel training, equipment and facilities respect these standards.

“The AATB’s accreditation process is voluntary. This accreditation confirms that Héma-Québec respects the standards required by this recognized organization. In fact, Héma-Québec applies the highest standards and uses the latest technology to ensure the safety of an adequate blood supply; the same goes for human tissues. This accreditation confirms that Québec’s citizens and patients have access to safe human tissue products for transplants,” commented Dr. Francine Décary, President and Chief Executive Officer of Héma-Québec.

AATB-accredited human tissue banks participate in determining donor eligibility as well as the collection, processing, storage and distribution of human cells and tissues for transplant or research. Receiving AATB accreditation is a demonstration of an organization’s commitment to respecting the highest standards and level of service for patients and the medical community. Furthermore, these organizations are recognized as leaders in the field and major stakeholders in the development and implementation of voluntary standards.

Within the framework of National Organ and Tissue Donor Awareness Week from April 17 to 23, Héma-Québec would like to emphasize that blood and tissue donation is an act of immense generosity by donors and of tremendous courage by families. Those waiting for a transplant are in urgent need of this selfless act.

Anybody meeting the tissue donation criteria can consent by signing the consent sticker distributed with all new Québec healthcare cards and fixing it to the back of their card. This sticker is also available at hospitals, pharmacies and various health clinics. It is important to notify the family members of this decision to donate human tissues, because they will make the final decision at the time of the death. For further information on human tissue donation, visit the Human Tissues section of the Héma-Québec Web site at www.hema-quebec.qc.ca, or call 1 800 267-9711, extension 2237.

Héma-Québec’s mission is to efficiently provide adequate quantities of safe, optimal blood components, substitutes and human tissues to meet the needs of all Quebeckers; provide and develop expertise and services, along with specialized and innovative products in the fields of transfusion medicine and human tissue transplantation.