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Westchester Hospitals: Newborn Safety a Priority

CORTLANDT, N.Y. — Following the much publicized scuffle between Fox News Channel  personality Douglas Kennedy and nurses at Northern Westchester Hospital, other area hospitals say they too have tough security policies in place.

On Monday the hospital released a statement defending the nurses who confronted Douglas Kennedy,  the son of the late Robert Kennedy, when he attempted to take his newborn son out of the hospital. Kennedy was charged with child endangerment after fighting with nurses, according to published sources.

"At Northern Westchester Hospital, patient safety is our priority and we completely support the actions of our nursing staff in this case as they were clearly acting out of concern for the safety of a newborn baby," said hospital spokesman Mark Vincent. "Out of respect to all parties involved, we are not elaborating on the details of this incident or providing any additional comments.”

Officials at other hospitals in Westchester County said the nurses' reaction to Kennedy's actions were an example of just how well-guarded newborn babies usually are.

At Hudson Valley Hospital Center in Cortlandt, Director of Maternal Child Health Sabrina Nitkowski-Keever said many policies are in place to protect both the child and mother.

"When the babies are born we ensure both mom and baby are safe," she said. "Any visitors that come to see the babies must be OK'd by the parents. "We partner with parents. We educate them on our security procedures once they're admitted to the hospital just so we can work together in ensuring the mom and baby are safe."

Babies will stay in the maternity area for about 48 to 72 hours and are discharged with the mother. Paperwork is filled out at the time of dismissal and the staff makes sure the correct child is with correct mother and that the mother is able to care for the child, she added.

At Westchester Medical Center in Valhalla, hospital spokesman David Billig said similar procedures were in place to keep newborns safe.

"If a baby needs to leave for a medical procedure(at the hospital), they leave with a staff member and the parent if they also want to go, Billig said.

The hospital also houses the regional neonatal intensive care unit, which Billig said brings high-risk pregnancies and sick babies and makes for common exceptions to the usual child/mother release procedure.

"There are situations where babies in that unit need to remain in that unit for an extended period of time, and in that case the mother would be discharged at some point and the baby would stay," Billig said.

Many hospitals also use high tech security methods to track children in the case of an attempted abduction, but most hospitals will not publicly divulge much information about such precautions  to avoid the child's safety being compromised.

"We do have an infant protection system in place," Billig said. "I'm not going to go into the details of how it works but I can tell you it's a tracking device that's attached to the baby and if it come within a certain vicinity of the door an alarm goes off in the maternity ward, the doors lock and the security team is notified."

Calls to White Plains Hospital Center and Phelps Memorial Hospital Center for comment on this story were not returned.

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