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Secure hospitals, save the children

Losing a child to kidnappers within days of it being born is possibly an irreparable trauma for any parent. That this is happening with alarming regularity in Mumbai’s ill-secured hospitals where ingress and egress is hardly restricted, especially at government hospitals, should be a cause for great concern.

This newspaper has regularly highlighted how criminals obtain entry into maternity wards with so much ease that the negligence could be termed only criminal. Today, our reporters have written that this issue is not alien to those manning the hospitals. One such concerned nurse wrote a letter to her boss at Wadia Hospital, Mumbai’s premier children’s hospital, highlighting the security issue. Yet, her plea was dismissed as a “waste of time”.

This is not only callous, but also reflects the utter lack of seriousness among our administrators in keeping newborns safe. There are simple, inexpensive measures that any hospital could undertake to do this. For instance, use the already existing security guards to prevent anyone but parents and authorised family members to enter the maternity ward or the area where the children are kept. Restricting the visiting hours to the hospital is easily implemented, if there is will to do so.

Yet, there is so much indifference to life itself that hospitals treat human beings as just another statistic. There are those honourable exceptions — like the nurse whose conscience made her write to the top authorities — but these examples are few and far in between. The kidnapping of babies, several in the last few months, has been reported extensively in the media, but even that has not shamed the authorities into putting up entry barriers for criminals.

The state and city authorities will have to clearly make people accountable for such lapses, no matter who that person is. They will also have to make funds available for the upgrade of the security installations at key entry and exit points of hospitals. For, as every parent knows, no amount of money is more precious than a child.

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