January 24, 2011
How Secure is Your Hospital Nursery?
No longer living in New York, I received no less than three emails and phone calls from good friends and colleagues regarding the story of Carlina White, the 23 year old woman who was kidnapped from a New York City Hospital and then miraculously reunited with her birth parents. White was kidnapped from Harlem Hospital, my institution of residency training, one year before I arrived. What happened to White is every parent’s worst nightmare. You bring your sick baby to a hospital to be healed and discover that she’s been kidnapped. Sixteen year old Joy White brought her 19 day old baby to the pediatric department at Harlem Hospital because she had a 104°F temperature. The next day the baby was gone and her parents’ anguish continued for the next 23 years. Allegedly a woman impersonating as a nurse kidnapped the baby after experiencing a recent pregnancy loss.
By the time I arrived at Harlem Hospital (aka Harlem) the following year, security was heightened. I now understand the reason why some 23 years later. According to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children between 1983 and 2008, there have been approximately 250 infant abductions in the U.S. hospitals prompting an increase in technology as a means of enhancing nursery security. As recent as 2008, a baby was kidnapped from the nursery of a community hospital less than 20 minutes from my home. Under similar circumstances, Jennifer Latham, a woman impersonating a nurse took a baby from its mother under the pretense of taking it for clinical tests. However, as soon as Latham left the hospital an alarm went off and the hospital was immediately in lockdown. Unfortunately, it was too late because Latham had already left the premises. Nevertheless, several hospital employees observed Latham getting into her car and the Sanford police quickly arrested her.
Do you know how secure your hospital nursery is? Most hospital nurseries have ID bracelets for both mom and baby that trigger an alarm if tampered with. There are other features such as a baby channel, locked nursery entrances and surveillance equipment. And never, ever give your baby to anyone who does not have proper hospital identification.
The kidnapping of Carline White had a happy ending albeit 23 years later. Unfortunately, that is an exception rather than the rule. In my next blog post I will discuss the importance of a labor and delivery tour and questions every expectant mother should ask. Until next time, remember, a healthy pregnancy and delivery doesn’t just happen. It takes a smart mother who knows what to do.