Red Cross President ‘Abruptly’ Resigns Amid Criticism
Dr. Bernadine Healy, the "fiery" president of the American Red Cross, "abruptly" resigned last Friday and said that policy disagreements with the group's Board of Governors "forced" her to "step down," the Washington Post reports. Her resignation takes effect Dec. 31 (Salmon/Fernandez, Washington Post, 10/27). "I had no choice. The board felt I was out ahead of them making policy. They didn't have any more confidence in me," Healy said (Huffstutter/Gold, Los Angeles Times, 10/27). Healy has faced criticism for a number of her decisions after the Sept. 11 attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, including "collecting too much blood." According to critics, she "had been so aggressive in appealing for blood" that some red blood cells expired unused (Seelye/Henriques, New York Times, 10/27). Red Cross officials announced on Friday that about 4.5% of the group's red blood cell supply donated after the Sept. 11 attacks had expired (Lemire, New York Daily News, 10/27). David McLaughlin, chair of the Red Cross board, said that the board "did not push Dr. Healy out" (Loven, AP/Dallas Morning News, 10/27). Red Cross spokesperson Blythe Kubina said that the group would appoint an interim president at a later date (Reuters, 10/26). The interim president will "work with Healy until the end of the year" (Washington Post, 10/27). Healy, a cardiologist, served as NIH director from 1991 to 1993 and as dean of the College of Medicine and Public Health at Ohio State University before she assumed her $450,000-a-year position at Red Cross in 1999 (Shatzkin, Baltimore Sun, 10/27).
In the past few weeks, Healy has "clashed repeatedly" with the Red Cross board over a number of issues. Some board members "reportedly were angry" that she did not receive approval before she established the group's Liberty Fund after the Sept. 11 attacks (Washington Post, 10/27). In addition, many Red Cross donors and chapter presidents criticized Healy for her use of the $500 million fund (New York Times, 10/27). The New York Post reports that critics have accused her of "spending too much" to bolster the Red Cross "empire rather than help victims" of the Sept. 11 attacks (Edelman, New York Post, 10/27). Some not-for-profit groups also questioned whether Healy "had taken advantage of the attacks" to boost donations to her group "at the expense of all others" (New York Times, 10/27). Healy also has disagreed with some board members over whether to resume paying dues to the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies. She suspended the payments in 1999 to protest the group's decision not to admit an Israeli relief organization (Washington Post, 10/27). Board members also questioned her decision to fire two top Red Cross disaster operations officials just days after the Sept. 11 attacks. In addition, the AP/Dallas Morning News reports that Healy "has been unable to free" the Red Cross from a court-ordered consent decree over repeated violations of FDA blood donation rules, a "fight that has escalated in recent months" (AP/Dallas Morning News, 10/27).