News & Events

American Red Cross of New England Continues to Seek Elimination of RNs Following $5.7 Million FDA Fine

Following Recent News of the FDA’s $5.7 Million Fine of the American Red Cross For Poor Blood Donor Screening and Safety Violations

Dedham-based ARC of New England Continues to Seek Elimination of Registered Nurses to Oversee the Safety of Donors and Blood Drivess

Dedham, Mass. — In the wake of recent news reports of the federal government’s decision to fine the American Red Cross $5.7 million for inadequate blood donor screening and violation of blood safety laws, the Dedham-based American Red Cross Blood Services – New England Region (ARC) is seeking to eliminate the role of registered nurses in screening donors and monitoring the safety of blood drives.

The issue of replacing highly skilled and licensed registered nurses with non-licensed technicians to oversee blood drives is at the heart of an ongoing contract dispute between the unionized registered nurses and management of the ARC in New England. The agency’s demand would mean there may not be qualified RNs on hand to assess donors and to respond to complications that arise. Both parties met with a mediator on Monday, with no movement towards a settlement.

In response, the nurses are continuing to take their case to the public and to sponsors of ARC blood drives for support in protecting donors’ access to monitoring and care by registered nurses.

“As the recent news reports make clear, the issue of donor screening is extremely important. We believe this is an issue of great concern for the public because nurses play a vital role in protecting the safety of our blood donors and blood supply,” said Barbara Jackson, RN, a nurse in the American Red Cross and the chair of the union’s negotiating committee. “The RN has the knowledge and experience in conducting thorough assessment and screening of the donors, as well as in keeping donors safe. Donors have reactions, sometimes resulting in serious injuries. It is not uncommon for patients to faint and hit their heads resulting in concussions and lacerations. They can experience arterial sticks, cardiac problems and anaphylactic allergic reactions. The nurse’s evaluation may result in the need for the donor to seek further medical care, a call to 911 or a follow up with their primary MD.”

The ARC employs 45 registered nurses throughout the state. The RNs, who are represented by the Massachusetts Nurses Association (MNA), have been negotiating their new contract since July 12, 2006, with the assistance of a federal mediator. The nurses’ contract expired on August 15, 2006. On Oct. 25, the American Red Cross presented their last best offer to the nurses. The nurses cast an overwhelming vote to reject the offer at a membership meeting held on Nov. 5. The two parties are scheduled to meet again on Friday.

The RNs provide numerous services within the ARC’s Whole Blood, Platelet Apheresis and Double Reds Cell programs. The Platelet Apheresis program is a specific form of blood donation that involves the collection of a donor’s platelets which in return is usually given to a cancer patient while in treatment. The MNA-represented nurses work out of four different regional offices located in Dedham (which is also the headquarters for the Red Cross), Springfield, Worcester and Danvers.

Jackson points out that the current effort to replace nurses with technicians to oversee blood drives is part of a concerted effort by the agency to break the nurses’ union and completely eliminate the role of the registered nurse from the agency altogether.

“This agency was founded by nurses, and it built its reputation on the work and skill of nurses,” said Jackson. “We are concerned that the organization’s purely business mentality has put the bottom line ahead of quality services. Management’s stance in these negotiations is an attempt to silence the voice of nurses at the Red Cross. We want the public to know that what is at stake in these negotiations is the very heart and soul of this revered organization.”