Héma-Québec broadens its expertise in human-derived biological products – A public mothers’ milk bank now operational in Québec

Montréal, May 20, 2014 – Infants born extremely preterm in Québec now have access to donated breast milk via Héma-Québec’s Public Mothers’ Milk Bank. Héma-Québec is able to supply donated milk to hospitals that provide neonatal care to premature babies born at 32 weeks’ gestation or earlier who cannot be nursed by their mother. This will help save the lives of many newborns by reducing the risk of necrotizing enterocolitis.

Héma-Québec’s experience and know-how in supplying human-derived biological products, namely blood products, cord blood, hematopoietic stem cells and human tissues, will be valuable in moving forward with this new undertaking.

Héma-Québec is the only provider of blood products in North America to offer a program that includes the management of a mothers’ milk bank. According to Dr. Jean De Serres, President and CEO of Héma-Québec: “The Public Mothers’ Milk Bank will benefit from Héma-Québec’s established expertise in terms of the quality, safety and production of human-derived biological products. Optimal resource management and access to products that meet stringent standards are the key advantages of having our organization oversee this type of operation.”

From donation to distribution

Donor recruiting efforts are on target and on track. They are being carried out at the same time as registrations for the Public Cord Blood Bank with mothers-to-be who plan to give birth at one of Héma-Québec’s eight partner hospitals: St. Mary’s Hospital Center, CHU Sainte-Justine, Royal Victoria Hospital, CHUQ Centre mère-enfant, Hôpital de la Cité-de-la-Santé (Laval), Centre hospitalier de LaSalle, Hôpital du Sacré-Coeur de Montréal and Lakeshore General Hospital. This combined registration process enables potential donors to sign up with the Public Mothers’ Milk Bank and the Public Cord Blood Bank. Mothers who wish to donate their milk must be nursing and able to produce surplus milk, be in good overall health, be non-smokers and meet the specified eligibility criteria. Pre-screened nursing mothers collect and freeze their milk at home, then send it to Héma-Québec at regular intervals. Donated milk is then processed, pasteurized and assessed for nutritional value. After being labelled and frozen, it is ready for distribution to hospitals. Some 3,700 litres is required annually to meet the needs of preterm babies born at 32 weeks’ gestation or earlier who cannot be nursed by their mother. This will entail the participation of about 300 donors.

In May 2013, the Québec National Assembly adopted Bill 29 to amend the Act Respecting Héma-Québec and the Haemovigilance Committee, thereby giving the green light to create a public mothers’ milk bank.

An initial investment of $800,000, funded in part by the Héma-Québec Foundation, was needed to integrate the Public Mothers’ Milk Bank into Héma-Québec’s operations. Héma-Québec’s Public Mothers’ Milk Bank is the fourth facility of its kind in Canada. Three other breast milk banks are currently operating in Vancouver, Calgary and Toronto.

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.

Héma-Québec encompasses 1,300 employees, over 300,000 donor visits to blood drives per year, 16,000 volunteers and more than 500,000 blood products delivered annually to Québec hospitals to meet the needs of patients.

Give blood. Give life. 

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