AP NEWS

Lions Eye Bank opens new facility, tries to repair ties with Milwaukee tissue bank

March 22, 2019

Lions Eye Bank of Wisconsin, which recovers corneas for transplant, will hold an open house Thursday at its new facility in southeast Madison.

The $2.6 million, 14,000-square-foot center south of the Beltline and east of Stoughton Road replaces a smaller headquarters near the Dane County Regional Airport. The opening comes as the nonprofit’s new executive director says she is improving relations with a Milwaukee tissue bank that partnered with an out-of-state eye bank, instead of the Lions eye bank, two years ago after tensions developed between the organizations.

“We’re working together,” Stacey Troha said. “It’s a new day.”

Troha, who became executive director in January, started with the Lions eye bank in 2015 and became interim director in July before Darise Langham resigned from the position in August, she said.

The new facility, which opened for operations in December, doubles the space available for processing corneas, Troha said. It features a surgical training center and a community center at which vision screenings are expected to be offered quarterly to the public.

The eye bank is considering growing vegetables on its three-acre site and using them in cooking classes on preventing diabetes, which can cause vision problems, she said.

Troha said she is repairing relations with Versiti, which owns the Blood Center of Wisconsin in Milwaukee. In 2017, that tissue and organ bank partnered with Seattle-based SightLife and asked the 35 hospitals and other outlets in its 12-county eastern Wisconsin region to use SightLife, instead of the Lions eye bank, for cornea recovery and donation.

Langham told the Wisconsin State Journal that the Blood Center was retaliating against the Lions eye bank, the only eye bank based in Wisconsin, because it reported safety and quality concerns about the Blood Center to federal authorities.

A Blood Center official said the tissue bank was simplifying the cornea recovery process for hospitals and providing a larger pool of corneas to surgeons.

A related lawsuit by the Lions eye bank against the Milwaukee County medical examiner, for excluding the eye bank from recovering corneas, was dismissed by a judge in December 2017.