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I was with my parents on New Year’s Day and noticed their newspaper, like many across the country, carried an article about the first baby of the year born at the local hospital. The article included a photo with the names of the father, mother, and baby.
The release of such information is becoming less common, according to an article from The Associated Press (AP). In an age of infant abductions and patient privacy, many hospitals are refusing to disclose such information, the AP article says. Others release limited information, with the parents’ written permission.
Community Health Systems, based in Franklin, TN, ordered its 207 facilities to stop publicizing the first baby of the year. Instead, doctors let parents know if their baby is the first one of the new year, and parents can contact the media if they choose. However, reporters and photographers are not allowed on the maternity ward, AP reports.
Community Health Systems cited the potential for infant abductions and identity theft, according to AP. A spokesperson said it was being done as a preventative measure and that there had not been threats or abduction attempts. However, 132 infants have been abducted from healthcare facilities between 1983 and 2014, according to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children. We’ve covered preventative measures in our Healthcare Risk Management publication. In our August 2014 issue, for example, we discussed how hospitals are holding abduction drills. Just don’t forget to notify local law enforcement officials when you hold such a drill. One hospital neglected to take this step, and four police cars went roaring toward the hospital with lights and sirens. The police chief wasn’t a happy camper. He released a statement saying that the hospital neglected to make a phone call and put his officers and the public at risk.
The National Center for Missing & Exploited Children has not told hospitals they shouldn’t release information about the year’s first baby because it considers such publicity to be low-risk, according to AP. The Joint Commission has not issued a requirement on providing birth notices to local media, but it has suggested that hospitals stop, the AP story points out.
Perhaps it’s time to revisit this time-honored tradition. One bad outcome could result in a devastated family and national publicity. Let’s make sure everyone has a happy new year.