‘Anti-abduction device should be installed in all hospitals’

By Diana Al-Jassem

A strict system needs to be implemented in hospitals across the (Saudi Arabian) Kingdom to stop babies from being kidnapped or accidentally swapped, said Dr. Walid Fitaihi, founder and CEO of the International Medical Center (IMC) in Jeddah.

Hospitals in the Kingdom have recently seen a number of kidnappings and accidental swaps. In a recent and notorious case, a newborn baby boy was stolen from a hospital in Madinah. The child was, however, left near a park a few days later. But another baby who was kidnapped from a hospital in Al-Jouf several years ago was never found.

Likewise, there was a famous case in which two boys — one born to a Saudi family and the other to a Turkish expatriate family in Najran — were swapped at birth. The accident was, however, only discovered several years later and both boys have been undergoing psychological treatment to deal with the mistake.

As a result, many women are worried about their children being kidnapped or swapped at birth and have called for additional security in hospitals. The IMC in Jeddah is one hospital that has installed a system — Hugs and Kisses — that provides a maximum level of security to children. The system is used worldwide, but largely ignored in private and government hospitals in the Kingdom.

“As the world’s fastest-selling infant protection system, the Hugs and Kisses system offers top security measures for babies and moms. We have been using this system since the establishment of the hospital in 2006 and we have never witnessed any kidnap or child swaps … I hope the system is adopted by the Ministry of Health, the Civil Defense and the police to ensure our children’s safety,” said Fitaihi.

“The Hugs and Kisses system is the best choice at the moment, it should be a requirement in all hospitals regardless of its high cost,” he added.

Talking about the system, Eng. Nawwar M. Sheikhani, director of facility management and safety at IMC, said: “The system is an easy-attach tag and starts working automatically. The tag attaches within seconds and … starts working when the baby and mother are still in the delivery room.” He added that the system requires no manual checks of infant tags. “The observers only see the menus and commands they need, all in a standard Windows-based PC environment. This system enables the hospital staff to see what is happening at the exit when the alarm goes off. It’s a 24-hour system; the software continually monitors the status of all devices and will generate an alarm if something goes wrong,” he added.

The system has two devices: One (Hugs) is wrapped around the baby while the second (Kisses) is tied to the mother’s wrist. “With the Kisses option, the Hugs device automatically confirms that the baby is with the right mother. There are no buttons to push, no numbers to match and no wall-mounted lamps to check. If the baby is given to the wrong mother, the attached system alarm works the staff automatically,” he added.

The system works for 24 hours. “As soon as a tag is attached to an infant, it is automatically activated … the system software interface looks like other Windows programs and functions intuitively,” Sheikhani added. No one is allowed to take the baby out of the nursery floor unless he or she has an ID number that allows him to log out. Passwords are only given to responsible doctors and no other staff is allowed to enter the baby floor.

“Moving the infant for medical tests involves no more than a password and a click or two of the mouse. Keypads can be installed at each exit to allow authorized staff to sign out infants at an exit,” he added.

Sheikhani said the system ensures that each baby is fully protected and that it offers full supervision with all active tags reporting to the system every 10 seconds to show they are present and functioning.

Every infant in the unit wears a Hugs tag with a unique ID number on the ankle, and every exit point is electronically monitored to detect the tags. This means staff and family can move infants freely within the protected zone, but no one can remove an infant from the unit without staff being alerted.

The system is also linked automatically to doors and elevators. “In the event of an alarm going off, the Hugs system can automatically activate magnetic door locks or hold an elevator. It can also integrate with and activate other security and access control systems such as alpha-numeric pagers and cameras,” said Sheikhani.

For security purposes, all system transactions are password controlled, time and date stamped and logged into the database on the system controller. The hospital’s management has a permanent record of who admitted, signed out and discharged babies. They will also have a record of when and where alarms occurred and who cleared them.

Dr. Mohammed Zuhdi Al-Imam, head of the Children Medicine Center at IMC, confirmed that the system is equipped with a watchdog timer card to output an alarm signal in the unlikely event of a problem with the operating system, a function that provides additional security.

The system also has advanced radio frequency technology and will not affect or be affected by other electronic hospital equipment. “By using this system, we can ensure that staff confidence is now very high. Our nurses know all they have to do is attach the Hugs tag and from that moment on the baby is protected from abduction. Parents really appreciate the Hugs system. They find it very reassuring that their new baby is being checked on regularly,” he said.

Arab News

Arab News

Arab News is Saudi Arabia's first English-language newspaper. It was founded in 1975 by Hisham and Mohammed Ali Hafiz. Today, it is one of 29 publications produced by Saudi Research & Publishing Company (SRPC), a subsidiary of Saudi Research & Marketing Group (SRMG).

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