“Snatched At Birth”
Though that may seem like a headline from a supermarket tabloid or the latest TV “Movie of the Week,” the fact of the matter is, in the beehive of activity that is the modern metropolitan medical center, protecting newborns, and other patients can be a very real problem.
Believe it or not, infant abductions do occur in hospitals throughout the country. According to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC), the Total abductions of infants confirmed by NCMEC from 1965 – December 2018 in the USA is 325. That averages out to around 6 -8 per year.
That may not sound like a lot, but to a family that has had a newborn, even one such occurrence is devastating. In the hospitals where such incidents have occurred, they have been almost as emotionally disturbing on the staff, and the local communities, as on the families involved.
Though infant abductions may be relatively rare, technology has now been developed that is making this horrible crime even more unlikely. An electronic system that allows hospital officials to constantly monitor the exact location of a particular infant has been introduced.
The basic component of the system, designed by engineers with EXI Wireless, now a division of VeriChip Corp., is a transponder attached to an elastic wristband so it can comfortably adapt to changes in the baby’s size and weight. Any unauthorized tampering with or removal of the band, or attempt to carry a child from the controlled area will immediately alert security personnel. Once triggered, the automatic central alarm can seal off the entire facility, quickly thwarting almost any means of escape.
Security Personnel Embrace Infant Monitoring Technology
Greg Popman, is the Director of Security at St. Elizabeth’s Medical Center in Massachusetts. St. Elizabeth’s was an early adopter of the RFID infant monitoring technology. Popman says, “When St. Elizabeth’s first came up with their infant abduction prevention plan, we had an alarm system that was in its infancy, so to speak.
With alarm systems, the system could only provide you with a general alarm. It would not provide you with the exact location of the alarm. This technology has improved that tremendously. Not only do we get an alarm, but you get an exact location of where the alarm is being generated from, you also get a patients name, which helps you track that alarm, it helps you keep the patient safer, it helps you safeguard the whole area”
Nurses at St. Elizabeth’s say that the system is easy to use, it’s simple to program the tags into the computers, and that it is just a real simple system, but it works.
Popman goes on to explain that, thankfully, St. Elizabeth’s has not had an attempted abduction, but says he is sure, if they ever do, it would be unsuccessful, thanks to this RFID system. He also says that “this same technology that has been used to protect infants, is also being applied in a somewhat different form, to avoid tragedies involving mentally or physically disabled adult patients, as well as prevent theft of valuable medical equipment.”
He added that the RFID baby tags have given parents at his hospital peace of mind. “They see that tag on the baby, and they are confident and secure here. It’s good for them and knowing that their baby’s safe is very good for public relations. In fact, a couple of times if the parents have walked down the hall and inadvertently set off the alarm and they see the doors lock down, and everybody come running, and it’s like ‘Oh wow it really works…’ and they cannot thank us enough!”