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Entries in NICU (2)

Friday
Nov042011

Breast Milk Banks Struggling to Meet Demand

iStockphoto/Thinkstock(FORT WORTH, Texas) -- The rising demand for human breast milk in neonatal intensive care units has prompted an impassioned plea from America's milk banks.

Donated milk, dubbed "liquid gold," can save the lives of preterm babies whose moms can't produce milk themselves.  But the 1.8 million ounces of milk distributed by non-profit milk banks across the country covers less than a quarter of the eight million ounces needed, according to the Human Milk Banking Association of North America.

"We need every healthy, breast-feeding mom to say, 'I want to be a donor," said Kim Updegrove, the association's president-elect.  "Then we'd have enough milk for every preterm baby. Even a small amount is lifesaving."

Human breast milk is rich in nutrients that help tiny preemies grow and antibodies that guard them against infections, which is why more NICU doctors are prescribing it.  Now three-quarters of milk bank orders come from hospitals -- up from 60 percent just last year.

But beyond those who need donor breast milk, few moms know about milk banks.  All prospective donors have to do is fill out paperwork online and provide a blood sample at a local lab.  The milk banks cover the cost of the screening process and, if approved, the cost of shipping and pasteurizing the milk.

"There's no cost to the donor," said Pauline Sakamoto, executive director of Mothers' Milk Bank in San Jose, Calif., and past president of the Human Milk Banking Association of North America.  But the recipient absorbs the cost, paying as much as $6 per ounce.

Today, there are 10 milk banks in the U.S., down from 30 in the pre-HIV 1980s.

For non-profit milk banks, the rising demand is bittersweet. On one hand, it reflects the growing appreciation for human breast milk's benefits.  But it also means the service is getting more expensive.  Instead of shipping hospitals a month's supply, the banks are forced to send milk as it become available, increasing shipping costs.

The increased price could mean more moms sharing online -- a practice discouraged by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration because of the risk of disease.  While the 10 milk banks under the Human Milk Banking Association of North America umbrella have strict standards for donor screening and pasteurization, informal milk sharing sites do not.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Tuesday
Mar222011

Texas Proposal Looks to Curb Elective Deliveries Before 39 Weeks

Photodisc/Thinkstock(AUSTIN, Texas) -- Texas health officials estimate they could save $36.5 million in Medicaid costs by curbing convenient, but risky, baby deliveries before the 39th week of pregnancy, while reining in use of expensive neonatal intensive care units.

For a variety of reasons -- some as mundane as moms-to-be wanting to guarantee that their obstetricians won't be on vacation when they go into labor, or that Grandma will be able to plan her trip to help out in the nursery -- some obstetricians agree to early deliveries, either by Caesarean section or induced labor.

However, early elective childbirth can subject newborns to many of the stresses of prematurity, which studies have shown can include blindness, underdeveloped lungs and long-term emotional, intellectual, developmental and behavioral issues.

These can include attention deficit disorder, said Dr. Frank Mazza, chief patient safety officer for the Austin-based Seton Family of Hospitals.

A half dozen Seton hospitals helped pioneer a highly successful program that drastically reduced NICU use by following American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists guidance to stop performing elective deliveries before 39 weeks.  The program had no effect on medically necessary early deliveries.

By strictly adhering to that cutoff, Seton hospitals reduced NICU costs associated with prematurity and traumatic delivery from $4.5 million a year to "somewhere in the neighborhood of $186,000 a year," Mazza said in an interview Monday.  The hospitals have consistently posted NICU savings for the last seven years, he added.

That test program, which also led to more healthy births, provided much of the impetus for the cost-saving proposal put forth last month by the Texas Health and Human Services Commission.  That measure seeks to reduce early elective deliveries and more closely scrutinize which babies are admitted to NICUs.

"We just really want to put an extra check and balance in place, and have doctors or hospitals call in and verify why that baby needs NICU treatment before they put them in," said Stephanie Goodman, a spokeswoman for HHSC in Austin, which administers the Medicaid program in Texas.

"We feel like that extra step may just help make sure that the babies in NICUs really need that level of care, and that any other baby that could be better-served or as well-served in just the regular nursery, would."

While it's unclear how many cash-strapped states might follow suit and try to find similar savings in the delivery room and NICUs, any such actions could cut deeply into hospital revenues. 

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio







ABC News Radio