Information gathered from the public health department by Newsline has revealed that none of the civic-run maternity homes has installed CCTV cameras, a security breach that needs to be plugged soon as 42.6 per cent births in the city take place at BMC hospitals.
The city at present has 27 maternity homes and one mother and child hospital. According to the 2014-2015 BMC budget, two new maternity homes will be commissioned and five other maternity homes’ construction will begin this year. However, while the civic body aims to add as many as 285 beds to all maternity homes to cater to a larger population, it has been largely criticised by corporators to compromise with security aspects at these health centres.
According to the information, which was partly gathered through the Right to Information Act, last year, 74,754 out of 1.75 lakh babies born in the city were delivered in the civic-run facilities, including hospitals and maternity homes.
BJP corporator Dr Ram Barot, who is also a member of the public health committee, said, “CCTV cameras should have been installed long ago. Several cases of babies being kidnapped from hospitals have been reported in the past. It is sad that common people can’t avail safe medical services.”
On October 24, 2012, a day-old boy went missing from the maternity ward of Parel-based Wadia hospital when his mother had stepped out for a walk. The Bhoiwada police station has been unable to trace the child. In another incident, a four-day-old boy was stolen from the maternity ward of Sion hospital on January 1, 2009. The boy was stolen when his mother had gone to the washroom. Sion police station is still investigating the case.
Another incident of baby-lifting took place at state-run JJ hospital in 2003, when a two-day-old baby was stolen from the maternity ward.
According to Dr Saeeda Khan, NCP corporator and a member of public health committee, the maternity homes have been neglected for too long with even basic facilities like ambulances not available at all maternity homes for emergency cases. “The BMC hospitals should offer at least the basic services, and CCTV cameras are a must,” Khan said. The Mumbai Police, while probing cases of stolen babies, had recommended the civic agency to install CCTV cameras as a security protocol.
After several cases were reported from Sion hospital in 2009, the high court too put forth a set of guidelines that had to be implemented in municipal-run, semi-government and government hospitals across the state. The guidelines included installation of CCTV cameras at entry, exit points and sensitive areas, 24-hour security outside paediatric and neonatal ward, and female security guards inside the wards.
While tenders for CCTV cameras were rolled out in 2009, they were procured only for major and peripheral hospitals. A request for CCTV cameras was again sent around six months back to the civic security department for all the maternity homes, five years after the major tenders were rolled out. “We hope to start with at least two cameras per maternity home – one at the entrance and another in the labour ward,” said Dr Padmaja Keskar, executive health officer at BMC.
Arun Veer, chief security officer at BMC, said, “In 2009, we had issued tenders for CCTV cameras. But only major and peripheral hospitals had received cameras. Maternity homes have been waiting for it since then.” Veer added that the process to issue tenders and procure latest cameras was time-consuming. “A huge tender will be rolled out soon to procure CCTV cameras not only for maternity homes, but also for public gardens, civic garages and other public spaces in the city,” Veer added. According to a civic official, a CCTV camera has already been placed at a Bhandup-based municipal maternity home on a trial basis.