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How Secure Are Maternity Wards?

As Paula Johnson, the mother who recently learned that her biological child was switched with another little girl at a Virginia hospital three years ago, parents all over the country are wondering how this could happen - and if it could happen to them.

CBS 'This Morning' Co-Anchor Jane Robelot visited Englewood Hospital in New Jersey to find out what standard security precautions health officials take to prevent such tragedies from occuring.

For first-time mother Peggy Park, the thought of taking the wrong baby home from the hospital was unimaginable.

"Most mothers see their baby at birth and get a good look at their babies, and you have to wonder how they can go home with the wrong baby," Park said.

During the delivery of her daughter on Tuesday, some doubts were raised. Park heard about the baby switch while she was in the delivery room. She said she voiced her concern about the news.

"The nurse reassured me about the security here and told me that it never happened here before," Park said.

It rarely happens anywhere, thanks in part to tiny plastic bracelets. Soon after the baby takes its first breath, nurses make sure the child has two.

The first moment that baby is moved from his mother, he's only a couple of feet away, where he is placed in a warming chamber, where security begins.

"As soon as the baby is put here, there is a band. One goes on the ankle and one on his wrist," said June McGovern, a nurse at Englewood Hospital.

McGovern said the bracelets stay on the baby for the entire time that they are in the hospital.

"The parents have to keep theirs on the whole time so they know it's their baby and there is no switching," McGovern said.

The small, numbered bands also have an electronic monitoring device. If someone were to try to pick a baby up and walk out of a hospital maternity ward, the monitoring chip would set off a deafening alarm, alerting hospital security. In addition to the alarm, the halls have video cameras that capture every move.

But even with this wall of surveillance, Englewood Hospital Security Director Steve Gaunt is cautious.

Gaunt said the baby switch in Virginia is a concern for all security directors.

"That's one of the nightmares every hospital administrator or security director would fear most occurring within their facility," Gaunt said.

Although it has never happened at Englewood's maternity ward, Gaunt remains vigilant.

Each year in America, of the 23 million babies born in hospitals or birthing units, there are 12 abductions. Gaunt told CBS News that parents also need to be cautious about their newborn's security in the hospital and when they bring their child home.

Among other things, security experts suggest that, to further prevent the rare threat of an abduction, parents should noadvertise the arrival of a new baby with balloons and signs outside the house.

Reported by Jane Robelot

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