With increasing SOS alerts for breast milk for newborns, whose mother are either infected or died due to Covid, Milk Banks seems the only option for infants. However, due to Covid-19, Milk Banks are under increasing pressure due to many reasons including staff shortage.
Vani Vilas Hospital, the largest maternity hospital in Bengaluru has a state-of-the-art milk bank. But until the beginning of this year, there were no technical experts to run the facility. Though there were multiple call for over 13 vacant posts, there was not a single application from eligible candidates.
As the Covid cases came into control after the first wave, fresh recruitments happened and milk bank seemed slowly getting back on track with additional help from nursing staff at hospital.
But the second wave have turned it topsy turvy. At present, there are 2 lab technicians at milk bank and both have tested positive.
“There are instances where a pregnant lady with severe labour pain is rushed to the hospital. As per protocol, we do RTPCR but we definitely can’t wait until her Covid results arrive. We will have to go forward with the delivery process. And after delivery, if the RTPCR indicates mother as positive we shift her to Ghosia Hospital, which is a new mothers’ specific Covid hospital. In such cases, the baby is also sent along and proper education is given to the new mother regarding all necessary precautions to follow,” Dr Geetha Shivamurthy, Medical Superintendent, Vani Vilas Hospital said.
Vani Vilas Hospital alone had 106 deliveries of positive ladies in March and April alone.
Other private facilities with milk banks are also under increasingly pressure due to Covid-19. Expert says that newborns who are deprived of breast milk can be formula-fed as a safe alternative. “Many times, if the baby is malnourished and mother is severely infected, rather than waiting for a donor, I suggest them to formula feed the baby. Very few people manage to get breast milk through people in their circle, but these are very rare cases. Hence, it has been a common sight of covid affected families trying hard to get milk donations. Only great awareness can bring some change here, which for now doesn’t seem to happen,” Dr Shylaja, obstetrician and gynaecologist said.