“Investigations by the Kelantan Health Department and Tanah Merah Hospital found that the discharge process was not fulfilled when the baby was allowed home, where the staff and security guard on duty did not take complete steps to ascertain the identity of parents during discharge,” said Health Director-General Datuk Dr Noor Hisham of the incident that occurred on Tuesday night, where a five-year-old baby girl was kidnapped from the hospital by two suspects.

“Their procedure was not in line with the Health Director-General Bill 1/2007: Guidelines on Infant Safety Control System in Hospitals under Health Ministry,” he said.

Hospital personnel failed to comply with guidelines

On Tuesday night, a 26-year-old mechanic posing as the father of the newborn baby girl went through standard hospital procedures to discharge the five-day-old from the ward.

After realising the abduction, a police report was lodged, and the suspect and his wife, who is believed to be suffering from post-partum depression following the loss of their child earlier in June, were caught and remanded under Section 363 of the Penal Code for kidnapping.

"The baby would (probably) have been in the neo-natal ward of the hospital or could have been with her mother. How could this happen?” said Health Minister Datuk Seri Dr S. Subramaniam as he announced that the ministry would conduct a thorough investigation into the accident.

"The ministry has distinctive guidelines and security system regarding the procedures to discharge and bring out a baby from the hospital," he also said.

Following investigations, the Ministry of Health (MOH) revealed that hospital staff and security had failed to confirm the identities of the individuals when the baby was discharged, neglecting to comply with existing patient discharge guidelines.

“Hospitals must ensure any parents and newborn to be given identification through tags or any other suitable devices (bracelets) that contains information including mother’s full name and infant’s birth of date and sex,” stressed Noor Hisham.

“This identification must be inspected especially during any handling of babies or before leaving delivery rooms and/or wards.”

Guidelines must be followed to avoid reoccurrence

According to Noor Hisham the Health Director-General Bill 1/2007: Guidelines on Infant Safety Control System in Hospitals under Health Ministry was circulated in public hospitals in September 2007 as a guideline to ensure safety of newborns, and to prevent abduction or switching of babies throughout their time in hospital.

He added that the incident should not have occurred in any hospital, whether from the public or private sector, and the ministry has since issued instructions to Hospital Tanah Merah on immediate improvement directives to prevent such incidents from reoccurring in the future.

“Among the suggested improvements to be made at the hospital are for mothers to use a special waiting card when they visit the nursery to breastfeed their babies, and a mother’s identification card must be used to discharge a baby from the hospital, along with the parents’ marriage registration certificates (surat nikah),” Noor Hisham said.

He also added that the ministry is proposing to isolate the Specialise Care Nursery Ward from the Paediatrics Ward to ensure tighter security measures, especially when bringing a newborn out.

“Babies’ discharge records must be made in two copies; one for the nurse and another to be signed and given to the security guards when exiting the hospital,” Noor Hisham added. MIMS

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