SINGAPORE, Dec 8 — Depending on the findings of a probe into cord blood banking firm Cordlife, the Ministry of Health (MOH) will take “necessary regulatory and enforcement actions against Cordlife, given the severity of the breaches and the impact on clients”, Health Minister Ong Ye Kung said.
In a Facebook post today, Mr Ong said this is to “ensure proper accountability and to underscore the importance of industry players to adhere to the required regulatory standards”.
On Thursday last week, MOH said it is investigating Cordlife after seven of its tanks storing cord blood units were exposed to temperatures above acceptable limits of -150°C.
About 2,200 cord blood units in one of Cordlife’s tanks belonging to about 2,150 clients have been damaged. Another 17,000 clients, whose cord blood units are stored in another six tanks, could be affected, pending investigations, the ministry said then.
Mr Ong said on Friday that investigations into Cordlife are ongoing and will take “another six weeks or so”.
The probe includes determining the extent of the temperature excursion for the six affected tanks and the viability of the store cord blood units within these tanks. MOH is also looking into the reason for Cordlife’s breaches.
“I have received many emails and messages since MOH announced its investigation into Cordlife Group Limited... Many parents are understandably upset and distressed,” said Mr Ong.
“We wanted to disclose publicly what we had found out first, which is why MOH put out a statement last week.”
Responding to parents’ requests for MOH to facilitate the transfer of the cord blood units banked with Cordlife to another blood bank, Mr Ong said that the ministry is advising parents to hold off on these requests until the full impact of Cordlife’s breaches is known.
“This is because if a unit is assessed to be unaffected, and Cordlife can strengthen its processes, it may be riskier to make a switch given the logistical complexity of making a physical transfer,” he said.
He added that MOH has held discussions with other cord blood banks, which are prepared to help.
The ministry is also working closely with Cordlife to address their shortcomings and is closely monitoring their cord blood banking activities and inventory management, and will ensure all relevant industry players learn from this incident.
“We will continue to keep the parents updated,” he added.
Earlier on Friday, Cordlife said the Foundation for the Accreditation of Cellular Therapy’s (Fact) indefinite suspension of its accreditation on Wednesday “will not impact the storage of cord blood units at Cordlife Singapore”.
It added that it will invite the global body for a “thorough inspection” once investigations by MOH have ended.
The suspension will remain in place at least until the ongoing investigations are completed and issues are resolved.
Cord blood unit storage, a private service offered to parents when their babies are first born, has emerged over the last 20 years, said MOH earlier.
Cord blood, which contains stem cells, may be used in stem cell transplants to treat blood diseases and some cancers such as leukaemia and lymphoma, should the baby develop such illnesses. — TODAY