Taipei City Hospital yesterday acknowledged flaws in the regulations of its human milk bank after Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) Taipei City councilors lashed out at the hospital for rejecting the donation of breast milk from a woman from Cambodia. The hospital promised to consider revoking restrictions on donor nationality.
The city hospital established the nation’s first public human milk bank in December 2004 to provide breast milk to infants born prematurely or who have infectious diseases.
Earlier this month, a foreign woman from Cambodia planned to donate breast milk to the bank, but hospital staff rejected her donation and said the bank only accepted milk from those born in Taiwan.
“The human milk bank follows strict screening procedures to assure the health of potential donors, but not accepting milk donations from those with other nationalities is clearly racial discrimination,” DPP Taipei City Councilor Wu Su-yao (吳思瑤) told a press conference yesterday.
DPP Taipei City Councilor Liang Wen-jie (梁文傑) joined Wu in questioning the city hospital’s regulations on breast milk donors, and demanded the hospital lift the restrictions on donor nationality.
The hospital’s milk bank requires donors to fill out a form detailing personal information and physical conditions. The hospital then conducts assessments on donors’ health and tests their blood samples, according to the hospital.
“Foreigners can donate blood in Taiwan so why can’t they donate breast milk? Are infants only allowed to drink milk that is made in Taiwan?” Liang said.
Fang Li-jung (方麗容), chief of the city hospital’s pediatrics department, yesterday denied any wilful attempt at racial discrimination by excluding foreigners from donating breast milk, and said limited experience in running a human milk bank and the language barrier had been the real factors behind the ban.
“The standard screening procedures for breast milk are complicated, and due to our limited experience in running a human milk bank back in 2004, we decided to limit eligible donors to Taiwanese nationals,” she said.
Because the human milk bank has now been in place for seven years, Fang said the city hospital will propose revoking the ban on foreigners donating breast milk in July during its regular meeting with experts and was likely to allow foreigners to make donations upon receiving approval in the meeting.
The human milk bank is the only government-sponsored milk bank in Taiwan and has collected more than 11,091 liters of breast milk since its foundation eight years ago.