Memorial Health System is discontinuing its 30-year-old blood donation program on June 29 and is turning the job over to the Denver-based Bonfils Blood Center, a major player in the field.
The move will eliminate three full-time and six part-time positions, Memorial spokesman Brian Newsome said Friday. The employees will be eligible to collect severance and can apply for other positions in the city-owned health system.
Newsome said the decision was made after the U.S. Food and Drug Administration conducted a routine inspection of Memorial’s blood center and ordered several changes to its operations and procedures. Memorial officials were already aware of some deficiencies, he said, and once the FDA weighed in, they studied their options.
“It wasn’t a safety issue,” Newsome said. “Blood centers have their own, specialized rules. As we looked at it, we had to ask: ‘Do we want to do that, or should we look at other options?’ Rather than making these extensive changes, we decided to go with Bonfils.”
Memorial notes that many hospital systems have discontinued their blood donor programs, with only 109 out of about 5,000 operating a donor center. Penrose-St. Francis Health Services also has a blood donation operation in Colorado Springs and will continue it, said spokesman Chris Valentine, but none of the other 12 facilities under the Centura umbrella has one.
Bonfils, a nonprofit that provides blood products to about 200 health care facilities in Colorado and other states, is working with Memorial to determine how much blood the system needs.
“We’ll make a commitment to keep that much on hand,” said Jessica Maitland, Bonfils vice president of marketing and community operations. “We do have a robust history of meeting the needs of more than 200 hospitals that rely on us for daily transfusion needs.”
Bonfils will conduct blood drives in Colorado Springs through its mobile units, she said, and may eventually set up a community donor center, similar to the six it operates mainly in the Denver area.
One former blood bank worker said she was dismayed by the decision, pointing out several recalls that Bonfils initiated of some of its blood products over the years. Many other blood providers are also on FDA lists of product recalls.
“Memorial has never transfused a product we shouldn’t have,” said the former employee, who asked not to be identified because she feared it could hurt her in a job search.
She also said blood drawn locally might not stay in the community, but will go to Denver for distribution throughout the Bonfils system. Newsome said that is not considered a negative.
“Yes, you are part of a bigger blood supply that way, but from what I understand, that’s a good thing,” he said. “It’s more efficient, and it helps out with rare conditions. The industry norm is to do it that way. We’re confident the blood supply will be as strong as it needs to be.”
Memorial now gets supplemental and emergency blood supplies from Bonfils and Penrose. The contract to make Bonfils the primary blood supplier will save Memorial about $15,000 — considered negligible in a business with a $552 million budget.
“From a financial standpoint, it’s pretty close to a break-even,” Newsome said.
Memorial’s blood donation operation started in 1982, and has 6,947 active donors.