Thursday, August 29, 2013

The Newborns Are Safe, Aren't They?

That is the question that women will be asking of the staff at University Maternity Hospital in Limerick from here on. If it's so easy for a thief to lift items from the maternity ward, it stands to reason that a mother would be worried about her most valuable possession being taken as well.

Recently, Jill Leonard went to the hospital to deliver her second child and things did not go as smoothly as anyone would have wished. She had carried well past her due date, and in the end, Ms. Leonard had to undergo a C-section. To say that she and partner Adrian O'Connor were stressed beyond reason is an understatement. There is little more frightening to a couple than to have a discussion with an obstetrician that entails things like fetal distress, surgery and potential side effects.

The last thing either parent were thinking about was the security of the ward where Ms. Leonard would recover after delivery.

After enduring the operation, and with the anesthesia wearing off, Ms. Leonard was keen to share the news with family and friends. Originally from the United States, she wanted to use her smartphone to send the sort of immediate pictures, videos and images that make the distance seem much smaller.

Her phone, as she soon discovered, was gone. Along with her wallet, and all her cash and credit cards contained therein.

You would think that the wards of a maternity hospital would be secure, given the threat of baby kidnapping. Apparently, the ward at the maternity hospital in Limerick is far from secure. Ms. Leonard's handbag was rifled and she was robbed while she was in the operating room.

While she recovers from what is a major operation, Ms. Leonard must deal with the theft of her personal and business credit cards. The thief has her home address, her business address, and enough of her identification material to steal her identity with relative ease. Knowing that some criminal knows where you live is not a pleasant sensation, especially for someone feeling particularly vulnerable.

The hospital's response is to recommend that women in labor not bring smartphones, money, credit cards, or anything of value to the hospital. This is not the first time a woman's things have been taken from the maternity ward, it has been suggested. You would hope that the gardai are at least taking a good, long look at anyone employed by the hospital with access to the ward, someone who would know that a patient was in surgery and would be gone for a certain period of time. It doesn't sound like a particularly difficult investigation. Unless the ward is open to anyone who happens to wander by.

What's next? Recommending that babies not be left unattended? Is it any wonder that home birth is growing in popularity? At least you can lock the front door to keep the thieves out.

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