First baby hatch in Sarawak

Fatimah cutting a ribbon to mark the opening of the baby hatch centre in Kuching. Mah is on her right. — GERYL OGILVY / The Star

KUCHING: The first baby hatch in the state has been set up at KPJ Kuching Specialist Hospital to rescue unwanted newborns and curb baby dumping.

Welfare, Women and Community Wellbeing Minister Datuk Fatimah Abdullah said the centre would provide a secure place for mothers to leave their babies to be cared for without fear of prosecution.

The baby hatch centre aims to save the lives of innocent newborns who would otherwise be placed in life-threatening situations.

“This project is about saving lives of both the baby and mother. The baby hatch gives an option to desperate mothers for a safe place to leave their baby and at the same time provides a second chance for the mother to sort out her life.

“However, it is not about encouraging teenage pregnancy or a move to support the abandonment of babies, but to contain the problem rather than letting it get worse. Ideally, the hatch should be the last resort,” said Fatimah when opening the KPJ Baby Hatch centre here.

She said the hatch, part of the specialist hospital’s corporate social responsibilities in collaboration with her ministry, would not be installed with a CCTV system to ensure anonymity for the person who dropped off the baby.

“There is an alarm that will be triggered once a baby is placed in the hatch. Hospital staff will give enough time for the mother to leave before they attended to the baby,” she added.

She said hospital staff would work with welfare officers to manage newborns.

Fatimah (left) testing the function of the baby hatch.
Fatimah (left) testing the function of the baby hatch.

“Police will be notified and a grace period would be given before the baby is put up for adoption. This is to enable the mother to take her baby back if there is a change of heart,” she added.

Since 2010, there have been 45 baby-dumping cases in the state. Kuching recorded the highest number of cases at 10, followed by Sibu (seven) and Miri (six).

Fatimah said a strategic partnership between the One-Stop Teenage Pregnancy Centre and KPJ was established as a holistic approach to reduce the number of baby dumping and teenage pregnancy in the state.

KPJ Kuching Specialist Hospital executive director Mah Lai Heng said KPJ Healthcare Bhd had eight baby hatches across the country prior to the newly launched centre here.

Seven are located in peninsular Malaysia namely KPJ specialist hospitals in Ipoh, Johor, Damansara, Seremban, Penang, KPJ Perdana in Kota Baru and KPJ Tawakkal in Kuala Lumpur. One is located in Sabah at KPJ Damai.

Mah said KPJ Baby Hatch practised the standard operating procedures to ensure that the mother’s identity would remain anonymous, even to hospital staff.

“As soon as the mother puts the baby into the hatch, a door will automatically be locked from inside and the light indicator will illuminate and alert hospital staff that there is a baby inside.

“The baby will be given a health examination by a paediatrician and KPJ will take care of the baby for three days before handing over to the Welfare Department,” she added.

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