As stories of infant abductions have surfaced over the past few years, security has gradually tightened in hospitals around the nation.
"Hospital regulatory and licensing agencies are now including security and safety measures in their inspections," said Emily Featherston, vice president of nursing at MDMC.
An electronic security device, in use since October, is just one of many security measures in place at MDMC's O'Bannon Family Care Center "just to assure that we make it as safe as possible," according to Tracy Hall, nurse manager for the nursery and pediatrics. "The parents have been very receptive. They've been real happy with it."
The WanderGuard system was selected by hospital officials based on its satisfactory performance in the Senior Lifestyles unit since 1998, according to Hall.
The $6,000 system, paid for by the MDMC Foundation, consists of signaling devices, door sensors and an alarm.
Once activated, the signaling device works for 90 days. "The batteries can't be replaced," said Hall.
As maternity stays are typically two days, the signaling devices are sterilized and used again.
Each of the door sensors and signaling devices are checked daily to make sure they are in full working order, Hall said.
Mothers receive an information pack which covers all MDMC's security measures including:
* Identification armbands for mothers and infants which are checked by staff. "Moms and babies have to match," said Hall.
* Security mirrors for clear views down the hallways from the nursing station.
* A Polaroid of every infant taken upon admission to the nursery and attached to their chart.
* All nursery staff wear picture IDs and special scrub apparel worn only by nursery staff.
* Mothers are instructed to call the nursing station to come get the baby before taking a nap, shower or any other activity that takes their eyes off the baby.
* Mothers are encouraged to call the nursing station if they are ever in doubt.
* A hospital-wide code for missing patients can be issued over the paging system. "Personnel throughout the entire hospital respond to that code," said Hall.
Hospital policy also requires infants to always be moved using the crib for safety as well as security reasons.
"We also have 24-hour video surveillance," said Jacqueline Thurmond, OB nurse manager. "We have security cameras on all exits."
Doors to the unit have keypad locks. "The codes are changed periodically as needed," said
Staff also train to be on the lookout for abductions. "We routinely conduct drills," said Hall, some of which are run in conjunction with the Department of Public Safety who assign a "baby snatcher" to test security measures.