Hospital to fit alarms to stop baby swap errors

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 09 September, 2009, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 09 September, 2009, 12:00am

A private hospital will soon introduce a system aimed at preventing the swapping of newborn babies.

Hong Kong Sanatorium and Hospital in Happy Valley is setting up an electronic system in its obstetrics department that matches babies' identification with their mothers' tags.

The hospital said the system had been planned for several years and was not a response to last month's blunder at Queen Elizabeth Hospital in which two babies were with the wrong mothers for more than 30 hours until one of the women discovered the mistake.

The new system was part of the Sanatorium's HK$800 million extension programme, which has added 20 floors to one of its buildings and will increase the number of beds from 434 to 527, deputy medical superintendent Dr Joseph Chan Woon-tong said yesterday.

Information on the mothers and babies is contained in the bracelets they wear. If a mother touches her own baby, music plays on a machine. If she picks up the wrong one, the machine will issue warning signals.

If a baby crosses a preset boundary, the alarm will sound. The system will go into operation in November.

Meanwhile yesterday, the hospital's chiefs attended a naming ceremony of 'IE Buddy', a new electronic infotainment system.

Patients are provided with a touch-screen on which to watch television and surf the internet.

The 'Buddy' enables doctors to browse patients' reports, such as X-rays and magnetic resonance imaging, while nurses can scan labels of a medicine. If a wrong drug is delivered, the system will show a 'mismatch' message.

A deluxe suite with a sitting room, two bedrooms and a cooking area is opening today and costs HK$16,800 a night.

The government has assigned four plots of land for the development of private hospitals, but three of them - in Tung Chung, Tseung Kwan O and Tai Po - were too far from the Sanatorium's doctors and target patients, manager of administration Wyman Li said.

The remaining plot at Wong Chuk Hang, near the construction site of the MTR South Island Line, poses a challenge, as at least an additional HK$200 million would need to be spent on construction to reduce vibration caused by the railway, he said.