Québec will have a mothers' milk bank in Spring 2014

Montréal, May 29, 2013 – The National Assembly has adopted Bill 29 modifying the Act respecting Héma-Québec and the haemovigilance committee, giving the green light for the creation of a mothers’ milk bank.

“An important step has been taken with respect to allowing Héma-Québec to supply hospitals with mothers’ milk that is pasteurized, safe and of a recognized nutritional value. This mothers’ milk bank, which will be adapted for the Québec context, will open as of Spring 2014,” declared Dr. Jean De Serres, President and CEO of Héma-Québec.

This new mandate will complement the current activities of Héma-Québec, which already has the essential components of the infrastructure and the expertise needed to operate such a bank. “This reality is little known, but there is currently no regulatory framework for mothers’ milk bank activities in Canada. Héma-Québec’s competence in managing biological products such as blood and human tissue will ensure the safety of the product,” Dr. De Serres specified.

Héma-Québec will use its experience and know-how when implementing this new activity. For example, recruiting will focus on the umbilical cord blood donors registered in the Stem Cell Donor Registry. The donors must be in good health and satisfy qualification criteria. Microbiological tests will be performed when the donors are selected. Bacterial tests will also be performed when Héma-Québec processes the milk. Finally, the distribution system in place for blood products will also be used for milk.

Integrating a mothers’ milk bank into Héma-Québec’s activities will require an initial investment of close to $800,000 and an annual operating budget of approximately $500,000. According to a cautious evaluation, as a result of an expected decrease in certain conditions affecting premature babies who are nourished through a mothers’ milk bank, the establishment of such a bank would result in an estimated annual saving of $1.25 million in the health budget. The future mothers’ milk bank will be used for very premature babies who cannot be breastfed by their mothers. According to the scientific literature, premature babies born at 32 weeks or earlier receive the most benefit from bank milk. Access to the bank’s milk would prevent a large number of cases of necrotizing enterocolitis in addition to saving the lives of several newborns every year.

Héma-Québec had informed the Ministère de la Santé et des Services sociaux of its interest in assuming the management and operation of a mother’s milk bank for Québec. This decision was based on the results of a feasibility study conducted in 2011. That study had determined that a quantity of about 3700 litres should be obtained each year to respond to the needs of 1,000 premature babies weighing 1500 grams and less. Since 70% of these babies are fed by their mothers, 265 donors will be needed to obtain the quantity required. These mothers will be recruited from among the 6000 mothers who consent to donate cord blood every year.

About Héma-Québec

Héma-Québec's mission is to efficiently provide adequate quantities of safe, optimal blood components, substitutes, human tissues and cord blood to meet the needs of all Quebecers; to provide and develop expertise along with specialized and innovative services and products in the fields of transfusion medicine and human tissue transplantation.

Give blood. Give life.

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