Hospitals Review Security Measures after Baby's Abduction

Monday's abduction of a newborn infant from The Medical Center of Central Georgia has served as a wake-up call for area hospitals.

Though the resolution of the incident had the best possible results - the safe return of Timillion Keshon Trawick to his parents and the arrest of a 16-year-old girl accused of kidnapping him - officials at hospitals throughout the midstate felt its effects and are reviewing their own procedures.

Quentin Jude, chief of police at the Medical Center, said at a news conference Tuesday that security procedures are in the process of being reviewed, but there was no obvious gaffe by hospital personnel.

"I don't think the system failed," said Jude, who added there wasn't anything he would have done differently. "I think the system is a very adequate system. There was a slight delay in securing the elevators.

"You can't stop crime. Things are going to occur. Nothing is foolproof. If someone wants to do something, they'll do it."

Like other area hospitals, much of the security procedures at the Medical Center focus on educating staff members and hospital patients and their families about risks from potential kidnappers.

Carla Morton, a registered nurse who runs the Mother-Baby Education Clinic at the Medical Center, said parents are told to make sure that people entering their rooms claiming to be hospital staff have proper identification badges.

Monday, someone was able to take a 4-day-old boy from his mother, Keisha Robinson, by convincing her she was on staff, despite not having an ID badge.

The kidnapper was able to leave the hospital within six minutes of getting on the elevator, Jude said. Despite the alarms working properly and the baby still wearing his electronic alert bracelet, the elevators and main entrance lagged behind in being secured. The kidnapper was able to use the elevator to get to the first floor and make an escape, he said.

Jude said there are an average of 15-20 babies in the unit per day, and there are nine full-time police officers each day.

"Most hospitals don't have full-time, sworn police officers," he said. "They have security guards. We feel like it's a big deterrent given the location and the demographics of where (the Medical Center) is located."

Both Morton and Jude said they think Monday's incident was the first Code Pink alert at the Medical Center, and none of the officials contacted at other midstate medical facilities were able to recall any similar occurrence at their hospitals.

According to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, there have been 116 abductions from medical facilities across the country between 1983 and 2004. Of those, 111 ended with the successful recovery of the child.

As part of the recovery efforts Monday, all other area medical facilities were alerted of the kidnapping.

Mary Jane Kinnas, director of marketing for Houston Medical Center, said her hospital received the Amber Alert as soon as it was issued and that details were e-mailed to all of the hospital's personnel and facilities.

"(A kidnapper) might take a baby to another facility if a problem develops," she said. "They alert all of the public hospitals in the area."

When she heard of the kidnapping, Kinnas said, it hit home as both a hospital employee and a mother.

"It's just a frightening situation," she said. "I've worked in hospitals for 16 years. It's one situation I hope I never have to deal with. Any type of kidnapping, you feel for the mother and father, you feel for the staff. I'm just so thankful they found the baby and were able to bring the baby back."

Debra Paschal, director of women's services at Oconee Regional Medical Center in Milledgeville, said her hospital has detailed security measures in place, including electronic monitoring bracelets on the babies, surveillance equipment at every exit on the floor and regular drills for what they call a "Code Rabbit."

"Patients are educated to ask to see the ID before they let the baby go with someone," Paschal said. "There's not a specific guard there, but we have 24-hour, real-time cameras that go to the guard station. They are also transmitted to the safety director's home and the department's head of engineering."

In addition, the newborn nursery is locked, and only staff members have access. Should anyone attempt to kidnap a baby, Paschal said, the unit immediately locks down, and security can see where the violation occurs.

"That's how scary that is," she said. "You can take all the measures and practices in the world, but it's like at a bank. They have all those measures and robberies still happen. I just know how stringent our policies are and how we follow them."

Paschal said the administration hasn't waited to discuss further security measures.

"We had a meeting (Monday) afternoon," she said. "They called us immediately. All of the staff gets together. It was a good review for everybody. We learn from each other. I hope the patients feel secure. We're doing everything we can to ensure that doesn't happen. It's always on our mind. You pay attention all the time, not just when something like this happens."

Sheila Gable, assistant chief of nursing at Coliseum Medical Centers in Macon, said the hospital drills frequently for Code Pink and other emergencies.

"I'm real proud of the program we have," she said. "It relies heavily on educating the patient and staff, letting them know how important babies are to us. We tell (patients) to be mindful of their surroundings."

Gable said the education includes a session with the mother before the baby is ever taken out of the nursery for the first time.

"Our Code Pink plan includes parking lot security and every employee in the hospital," she said. "Any mother, any parent would tell you that this was terrifying for all of us. We certainly support the Medical Center having the success they did (in recovering the baby). It's on the forefront of our minds always. ... We're going to revisit our policies and look at everything we have in place, too."

***

TIMELINE OF THE ABDUCTION
12:37 p.m.: Alarm alerts The Medical Center of Central Georgia police and nurses that 4-day-old Timillion Keshon Trawick is missing from the maternity ward.
12:40 p.m.: A Code Pink is announced, alerting all Medical Center employees that a baby abduction is happening. At this point, Timillion had been taken into an elevator on the third floor.
12:46 p.m.: The suspect exits the hospital with the baby.

SOURCE: The Medical Center of Central Georgia

Macon Telegraph


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