Someone abandoned a two-day-old baby at Angel's Cradle at St. Paul's Hospital in Vancouver this summer — the first time the newborn drop-off facility has been accessed, the hospital said Tuesday.
The downtown hospital's program, launched in May, encourages parents to safely abandon unwanted children in a bassinet in a private alcove near the hospital's emergency entrance.
After an alarm alerts hospital staff to the presence of the child, doctors will assess the baby's health and provide any necessary medical treatment, then put the child in the care of the Ministry of Children and Family Development.
The two-day-old was left in the hospital's special bassinet in July, according to Dr. Geoffrey Cundiff, who founded the program.
Cundiff said important details such as the date of birth, ethnicity and family history were left with the child.
"That was really helpful. I think they were really trying to do what was right for the baby," said Cundiff, who believes the baby has an immigrant mother.
The baby is in good health and now in the care of the Ministry of Children and Family Development, he said.
Anonymous drop-offs developed in Europe
Under the program, anyone wanting to leave a newborn can access the bassinet anonymously by small doors both outside and inside the emergency room entrance. Another door inside the hospital allows staff to access the baby when an alarm sounds shortly after the parent or caregiver has left.
The program has faced criticism from some who say it encourages mothers to avoid official adoption procedures, but Cundiff disagrees.
"I don't think we are trying to encourage it. I think we are really trying to provide an option that will prevent tragedy for the baby and the people who are really opposed to it. I think they are really frustrated with the idea of a mother giving up her child, but many times, that's really what be best for the baby, if they really don't have an environment where they can care for the baby.
Cundiff spearheaded Angel's Cradle after a number of babies were found abandoned around Vancouver. It is based on similar facilities in Europe that are sometimes called baby hatches, which draw on their own origins from historic facilities run by churches such as foundling wheels.
The St. Paul's cradle is the only one of its kind in Canada, but Cundiff says he has had inquiries from across the country, and some Catholic hospitals in Alberta are considering implementing their own safe-haven program.