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Hospital Hands Newborn to Wrong Parents

Short & Sweet

Imagine trying to visit your newborn in the hospital NICU and finding another mother and father cradling him and pulling him to their bosom, believing he is theirs. New dad, Carlos Urrutia, went to visit his 1-day-old son, Marcello, in Alta Bates hospital in Berkeley, Calif., and found a strange woman, not his partner, holding his newborn son. Now, the hospital is taking steps to prevent any future baby mix-ups in the NICU.

The Lowdown

The hospital adamantly disputes Urrutia's account of what happened. He says: "The curtain around my son's bed was closed, so I quickly peeked around and saw a mother and father with who I assumed was their baby, so I left. I checked the dry-erase board to see where my son had been moved, but he was still assigned to his original bed, so I asked the nurse where he was."

According to Urrutia, the nurse gave him a "blank stare" and led him to his newborn son's bed, pulled back the curtain, and again the woman was there. This time she was holding his son and doing skin-to-skin by placing the baby's face near her breast. At this point, Urrutia got upset and asked the woman what she was doing with his son. She was shocked because she thought she was holding her baby.

The nurse apologized and blamed the mix-up on similar last names. However, Urrutia is upset because he says even with security policies in place, they only work if enforced. He says the nurses weren't paying attention and were distracted.

Newborn mix-ups in hospitals don't happen often, but they do happen. A public relations representative from the hospital, Carolyn Kemp, says that Urrutia's story is "grossly inaccurate" and that an investigation determined that there was no evidence to support his allegations and further attributed his perspective to the highly emotional time the father was experiencing.

She added: "The policies the medical center has in place are appropriate and work. There was a verbal communication issue because of a misunderstanding as a result of surnames that were very similar. We identified this lapse in our standard protocols and reviewed all policies through additional communication/monitoring and auditing with all RNs on the hospital's infant identification policy. At birth, mother, infant and designated additional person all receive matching wristbands."

The Upshot

This must have been a scary situation for everyone involved. Thankfully, the babies are with the right parents, and the hospital is taking more precautions to make sure mix-ups like this don't happen in the future.

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