After internal investigation, Blood Bank clears itself

  • By DJ SUMMERS
  • Saturday, November 19, 2016 9:16pm
  • News

The Blood Bank of Alaska leadership has investigated itself and found nothing wrong.

Board of directors chairman Ryan York and chief executive officer Bob Scanlon held a press conference on Nov. 18 to publically release the results of an internal investigation. Investigators said they could not verify most claims made by former BBA grant writer Linda Soriano in a complaint to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

The committee doing the investigating was made up of Dr. Ian van Tets, Charles Coulson, and Donald McClintock, each of whom is a member of the Blood Bank of Alaska board of directors.

Specifically, the investigating BBA board members found no evidence to support Soriano’s claims including blood shortages as a result of the expense of BBA’s 57,000 square foot building, improper donor recruiting methods, negative reactions to blood collections and falsified financial information.

“BBA’s procedures were audited by blood banking experts at the points in time that were most relevant to this investigation and those experts were satisfied that BBA’s operations were being carried out in a safe and appropriate manner,” the investigation concludes. “The committee’s own review of the specific allegations (described above) found no evidence of inappropriate blood banking management, no evidence of inappropriate financial management, and no evidence that BBA’s management is acting in any was contrary to BBA’s mission of service to the Alaskan community.”

Upon reading the results of the investigation, Soriano said she and another former BBA employee said the report was “just so many lies.”

Soriano said the investigation’s findings have little substantiation behind them.

In particular, Soriano draws attention to the audits completed by the FDA and CPA firm Swalling and Associates PC, which used information from 2014 and 2015. Both audits covered information from before BBA’s export agreement with California blood bank LifeStream, which Soriano alleges was the catalyst for further problems.

“He’s just persisted in deny, deny, deny,” said Soriano.

Soriano was among a group of Blood Bank of Alaska employees filed a complaint with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration in August, charging the BBA leadership with mismanagement and financial impropriety leading to dangerous donor conditions and blood shortages.

According to the complaint, filed Aug. 28, the BBA allegedly could not fill the order of Providence Medical Center when it had its grand opening because too much blood had been shipped to California the day before.

A second FDA complaint filed by a different employee came weeks after. Neither employee works at the blood bank anymore, and at the press conference Scanlon declined to answer whether or not they had been fired or left willingly, though Soriano admits she resigned.

It has yet to be seen whether the FDA will look into the matter. The FDA will not comment on ongoing investigations, but Scanlon said conversations with the FDA led him to believe it is “reasonable to assume” the licensing organization would not investigate because Soriano’s claims are “without merit.”

In its conclusion, the committee took pains to point out that managers they interviewed saw no problems whatsoever in what BBA does.

“When the Committee interviewed three member of BBA management as part of this investigation, one of them emphatically stated ‘there is not one thing, one thing, that I have a regulatory concern with’ (emphasis in original),” the report’s authors wrote. “This opinion was clearly shared by the other two members present and similar opinions were voiced by many of the other employees interviewed by the committee.”

This narrative conflicts with reports of morale from former and current employees, but BBA leadership said the organization is open to complaints. Scanlon and York emphasized that BBA has robust whistleblower protections and an open door policy that encourages employees to run complaints to the board of directors if needs be.

York had no speculation on why several employees would bypass the board in favor of direct complaints to the FDA and the press.

“We ask ourselves that 100 times a day,” he said. “I wish I had answers.”

York and Scanlon both expressed repeatedly that BBA serves Alaskans first with a health matter of paramount importance.

“I, my family, the board of directors and every staff member at the Blood Bank of Alaska is dependent on the blood supply that the Blood Bank of Alaska collects, tests, processes, distributes as any other citizen of the state of Alaska,” Scanlon said. “It would be foolish to think that we as blood bankers would do anything to jeopardize the safety of our families, of our neighbors, of ourselves and of our state. I just wanted to make sure that something as obvious as that is also put out on the table.”

DJ Summers can be reached at daniel.summers@alaskajournal.com.

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