Alaska Regional, Providence increasing security for newborns

PHOTO/Rob Stapleton/AJOC
This year the state’s two largest hospitals, both in Anchorage, are boosting their security systems monitoring newborns.

health.jpg Alaska Regional Hospital will be operating an electronic infant security system called Hugs by summer. The system is manufactured by Instantel Inc. of Ontario, Canada.

Providence Alaska Medical Center began operating its system in mid-February.

Alaska Regional is installing the system this year in conjunction with renovations to its maternity unit. The security system should be operating by June, said Kjerstin Lastufka, Alaska Regional’s director of marketing and public relations.

Lastufka said a dollar figure for the infant security system was unavailable. The project is part of a $26 million hospital renovation started last fall and due to be finished in 2002. Renovations will relocate and update the lobby, add operating rooms, expand the radiology department and expand the labor and delivery unit with new, larger rooms.

Currently, entrances at Alaska Regional’s maternity unit have alarms, she said. Also, unit staff have distinctive identification cards and colored scrubs to differentiate them from someone who may try to abduct an infant.

The hospital has not had any such incident involving babies, she said.

Providence, too, has not recorded an abduction, but more than two years ago a mother took her own baby out a hospital window, said Jo Danner, clinical manager of maternity services. Windows on the unit are now sealed shut, she said.

Providence began considering installing a system like Hugs a year ago, Danner said. Cameras were installed nearly two years ago to monitor the maternity unit’s exits, as well as in the Children’s Hospital on the third floor. Providence officials wanted a more efficient security system with tags to track babies, she said.

The Hugs system features a two-way transceiver tag that the baby wears on its wrist with a bracelet. Receiver stations on the 30-bed unit monitor the infant’s location and can lock all exit doors if the baby is taken beyond the system perimeters, said Newton Chase, director of facilities. Alarms also sound if a baby’s Hugs bracelet is cut, Danner said.

The system cost $90,000 and was installed by Engineered Fire Systems Inc. of Anchorage, he said. The Hugs system was more expensive yet more effective than others Providence reviewed, he said.

"What’s important is the feeling it brings," Chase said. "Moms and dads feel safe. We’re going to a much greater degree to keep kids safe."

Video cameras will still be in place at the unit, along with others monitoring staff parking at night, he said. "This is a 24-hour operation, and it’s like a small city," said Chase, describing the hospital’s need for security.

Security systems for maternity units are increasingly common for U.S. hospitals because incidents have occurred at large and small facilities, she said. Some hospitals outside Alaska limit the number of visitors allowed or issue a swipe card to monitor access to the maternity unit, she said.

Babies receive two identification bracelets, coordinating with ones worn by the parents, she said. After the baby’s first bath, the Hugs bracelet is secured, she said.

Parents, who had not complained about video camera monitors, also have voiced approval for the new system, according to Danner.

Providence is Alaska’s level three neonatal intensive care unit, handling premature births or problem pregnancies from around the state, she noted. Danner sees the new security system as another business advantage for the facility.

"If I am going to choose (a facility for the birth), it’s going to be some place where the baby will be the most secure," Danner said.

02/17/2001 - 8:00pm