New cord blood bank opens at Scarborough Hospital

The Scarborough Hospital has partnered with Canada’s largest cord blood banking program to bring a different kind of health insurance to the wider community.

A couple of weeks into the partnership with Insception, Barbara Milana Scott, the hospital’s maternal newborn and childcare program patient care director, says the numbers of patients deciding to bank their newborns’ cord blood is being tracked to determine the success of the initiative.

“I’m hoping to see that more patients that belong to the diverse community are actually benefiting from the option of banking their cord blood,” Scott said.

Both Scott and Geralyn Ochab, vice president of sales and marketing for Insception, said the hospital’s diverse patient base was key in the decision to form a partnership.

“Currently about 82 per cent of all of the stem cells that are harvested, whether it be cord blood or bone marrow, are from Caucasian people,” Scott said. “So the chances of members of diverse communities finding a match if they need it are very slim.”

Ochab also noted interracial marriages have increased the need for more variety in stem cell registries.

Scarborough residents have always had the opportunity to bank their children’s cord blood, Scott said, but many were not aware of it.

“If you spoke English and you knew to ask for it, you had access,” she said. “It really wasn’t, ‘Let’s talk to you about something that’s good for your family and let’s talk about it in a language you understand.’

“We don’t want one patient to walk out of our doors and say, ‘I didn’t know and I wish that I did know.’ ”

The new partnership focuses on promoting the availability of cord blood banking and educating families on the uses of cord blood through information sessions, speakers and literature. Ochab said Insception also works to keep health-care providers informed so they can offer the latest information to their patients.

“We work closely with nurses, physicians and other health-care providers to support them when they have questions,” she said.

According to Scott, stem cells harvested from cord blood can be used in treating about 75 diagnoses, including some childhood cancers, leukemia, juvenile diabetes and cerebral palsy.

“Banking your child’s umbilical cord blood is painless and it’s not going to take a lot of effort,” Scott said. “Every year and every month they’re coming up with new treatments to use these stem cells.”

She said on average the procedure costs $1,100 for harvesting, treatments and first year of storage, plus an average of $100 for every year the family chooses to store the blood after that.

“Our moms will say: ‘We spend hundreds of dollars on the best strollers, the best highchairs, the cutest outfits. If we gave up something we could afford this insurance policy on our child,’ ” Scott said.

Another new program, Wings of Hope, has been launched as part of the partnership. Through Wings of Hope, free cord blood harvesting is provided to parents who cannot afford it but who show a need.

“Our hope is that any patient who really truly wants and needs this, there would be some sort of option in terms of a payment plan,” Scott said. “We don’t want to see any patient turned away because of a financial burden.”