Keeping a Close Eye on Newborns

How modern hospitals are protecting newborns from abductions


FARGO (AP) - Hospital officials say they use security systems, conduct drills and try to educate parents to guard against infant abductions.

"We have to respond to the times," said Mar Freeman, director of the women's and children's department at Innovis Health in Fargo.

Staci Woolery kept her infant son in her hospital room at Innovis after he was born Thursday and checked the faces of nurses and staff members, after she heard of an abduction at a Texas hospital involving a woman wearing hospital scrubs.

"When I saw that on the news, I thought, 'Absolutely, he's staying in the room all the time,'" said Woolery, of Fargo, cradling her 10-hour-old infant.

Parents are told never to release their baby to a person they don't know or someone who is not wearing a specific color uniform or a picture ID badge, Freeman said. They also are reminded to never leave their infant unattended, even when going to the bathroom.

"You need to have those patients so in tuned to the role they play in baby security," Freeman said.

Security cameras monitor exits, and the doors to the birthing center are locked. Guests must name the people they are visiting and be let in and out, Freeman said.

The hospital also does quarterly drills with a doll named Abby, short for abduction.

"The drills have never been successful from the abductor's standpoint," Freeman said. "The person rarely even gets admitted to the floor."

MeritCare Hospital in Fargo also does infant abduction drills and has a closed-circuit video system, said Tim Vangerud, the hospital's safety and security manager.

Patients are outfitted with an electronic monitoring device that would sound an alarm if the device were broken or removed, Vangerud said.

In Grand Forks, Altru's Family Birthing Center is a secured floor and video cameras are in place, spokeswoman Julie Jeske said. The hospital also works to educate parents, she said.