By Timothy Cox
Mercer Health officials plan to install a new security system aimed at preventing infant abductions from the birthing center at Mercer County Community Hospital in Coldwater.
Board members last week agreed to pay $37,000 to Innovative Medical Systems Inc. for the Hugs infant protection system. The system could be expanded in the future to cover pediatric patients or others considered at high-risk of leaving the hospital -- such as an Alzheimer's patient.
"This proposal comes after many months of research to find a system that works with our physical plant needs," Mercer Health CEO T.J. Padden said. "The new system will meet the state and federal guidelines as they relate to infant security and can be expanded to secure other areas of the hospital as needed in the future."
The new security system revolves around computerized wristbands worn by the infants. The bracelets contain computerized information that is constantly tracked by the main computer system. If a baby is removed from a predetermined perimeter, an alarm sounds to alert hospital personnel to the situation. The alarm also is tripped if the bracelet is cut or otherwise tampered with.
The new system is an upgrade over the existing security plan, which includes an alarm on the rear entrance to the obstetrics area of the hospital. The main door to the birthing center is not secured by an alarm because it is near the nurses' station. The door will be covered by the new security arrangement. A mock abduction carried out by the hospital's safety committee last fall indicated the need to beef up security, Padden said in a written report to board members.
"Frankly, there was opportunity for improvement," Padden said of the exercise.
The new system was not an unexpected purchase; the item was included in the current budget.
In other business, board members:
´ Followed through with plans to buy a picture archival and communication system, known as PACS. The system will provide digital images of virtually all radiologic tests done at the hospital so they can be viewed online by doctors working somewhere else. The technology also will allow for more efficient storage of X-rays and other tests. The equipment cost about $500,000.
´ Learned that construction of a protective flood wall around parts of the Community Medical Center in Celina should begin soon.
´ Heard the hospital lost $247,946 for the month of March but finished its fiscal year with a total profit of $1,163,873.