For the past couple of days, the big news locally have been about the baby mix-up at KK Hospital. What happened was last Sunday, a couple went home with their newborn son (baby A) from the hospital and they found that one of the tags on the baby didn’t bear the name of the mother, but that of another woman. They alerted the hospital immediately, and after blood tests were done the results were incompatible with baby’s. The hospital then contacted another couple where the wife’s name was on the tag of baby A. This couple was also discharged on Sunday with their baby son (baby B), and removed the tags without realizing anything amiss. They went for the blood tests as well and results were also incompatible with baby B. It turned out baby B was wearing 2 correct tags (parents being the first couple), but was given to the wrong set of parents.
KKH’s CEO explained the tagging procedure during the press conference that a baby is tagged with the mother’s ID upon delivery on the right ankle, then given a second tag on the left ankle in the nursery. During discharge, a nurse will check both tags and verify with the mother before the latter signs the release form. He said that in the case of baby A, it was likely that one of the tags fell off and a wrong tag (that of baby B) was given to him. Worst of all, there was a serious lapse in the procedure when the tags were not checked in both cases before discharge. Anyway the hospital has conducted DNA tests on everybody involved to have a final confirmation, though results will only be known end of this week. The CEO apologized during the press conference and promised a full investigation, and that this would be the first and final time such a mistake happened.
This was something I had wanted to avoid when I was pregnant. I had mentioned about this in my post ‘The Tour, the Scan and the Clinic’ dated 14 January that during the hospital visit at Thomson Medical Centre, I asked about identification of baby to prevent mistake like this from happening. A nurse at the delivery suite told me that a baby is tagged immediately after birth with mother’s name. Anyway it goes without saying that KKH screwed up big time in this incident. Both sets of parents are incredibly upset by what happened, which I can understand. What I don’t understand is how come the parents couldn’t recognize their babies, and I am not the only one. The CEO, probably trying to cover the ass of the hospital, explained that newborns look similar. Well, to a number of parents including my husband and myself, they don’t.
My husband was by my side right from the moment of admission into Thomson Medical Centre, and assisted with the birth of baby Alex. He remembered Alex’s look right from the moment he set eyes on him. If I remember correctly, the midwife/nurse checked with me the ID on the tags before tagging Alex. And Alex was with us all the time, until he was taken for his bath later that day and when he had to go for his jaundice treatment in the nursery. My husband told me he could spot Alex among the babies in there. Of course, the millions of pictures my husband took also help.
As for me, I have to admit I was so exhausted then and in a state of shock that I didn’t take a close look at Alex until much later. Anyway even if I couldn’t spot Alex among the many babies, my husband could recognize him a mile away. It appears from online comments that a couple of other fathers also feel the same, that babies are not alike and they can recognize their own like their facial expressions and cries. When you look closely at all the babies, you’ll realize that is true, and even if you can’t identify other babies you will recognize the unique characteristics of your own.
There were lots of comments online, mainly criticism of KKH and blaming foreign nurses for the screw up. We actually do not know if the mistake was made by a local or foreign nurse and so it is unfair to pin the blame on foreigners. In fact my husband and I think many of the foreign nurses we met at either KKH or Thomson medical Centre are pretty good. There were some funny comments like a couple of netizens wondered if they were swopped at birth because they don’t resemble their parents. One paranoid guy even remarked that he would sneak in a permanent marker to mark his baby at birth as a precaution.
My husband suggested I email gynae Loh to ask him, ‘what happened? After you left, KKH fell into a mess!’ Would he return if KKH doubles his pay? We suspect Thomson Medical Centre poached him from KKH in the first place was because they needed him to revive the damaged reputation of the fertility center, since he has built up a reputation as one of the top IVF specialists in Singapore and has experience running a facility. Anyway what happened in the Thomson case was in end 2010, a couple, who undergone IVF treatment there, was shocked to find out the wife had delivered a baby who has the mother’s DNA but not the official father. They realized something was wrong when baby was of a darker skin color as mother is a Chinese and father is a Caucasian. After the pediatrician told them the baby’s blood group it confirmed their suspicious as it is not compatible with either one of them. (See report Singapore Medical Centre in IVF sperm mix-up.) We think Loh was brought in end last year to take over as medical director of the fertility center to revamp the operations, and he didn’t deny it when we asked him.
My husband wants to suggest to Loh a slogan for the Thomson Fertility Centre and his clinic: Your baby is bao jiak your baby (Your baby is guaranteed your baby).
For those who are interested in the details of the KKH baby mix-up, here’s the news write-up.