FRESH fears have been expressed that sick and premature babies who rely on Ireland’s only human milk bank, based in Fermanagh, could be denied life-saving breast milk once Brexit comes into effect in two years time.
Since 2000, the facility in Irvinestown which is managed by the Western Trust, has provided human milk for thousands of premature and sick babies all across Ireland, many of whom would have died without this help. The Milk Bank can only provide breast milk to over 900 babies a year through the kindness of its donors: breast-feeding mothers who give some of their milk so that other mothers can feed their sick babies.
Now concern is mounting that a hard border between the Republic and the North could at least either delay or at worst prevent the milk being delivered to maternity hospitals.
The Republic’s Department of Health has said it does not yet know if the Milk Bank will continue to serve all Ireland once the UK leaves the EU. The news comes after the southern Labour Party recently called on the Irish government to establish a similar human donor milk bank in the south.
When contacted by the Herald, a spokesman for the Western Trust declined to comment. However Human Milk Bank manager Ann McCrea believes that there are great benefits to having just one facility servicing both north and south.
“One milk bank has a lot of good points as it means that one phone call gets a donor recruited and another gets the milk out. Unless you have a decent staffing level you will find that it may have to close some days which means that units can’t access milk.”
The Department of Health here says access and co-operation throughout the north and south of Ireland “should continue after Brexit in March 2019 “, adding that it “will continue to monitor the outcome of the UK Government’s EU Exit negotiations and consider any emerging issues which could potentially impact on this valued service.”
Posted: 2:17 pm August 19, 2017