Edmonton

Angel cradle at Edmonton hospital may have saved baby's life

A safe-haven program called angel cradle at two Edmonton hospitals may have saved a baby’s life this year, a Covenant Health spokesperson says. Only one baby has been dropped off since the service was created in 2013.

'At least for one person, it’s made a difference,' says Gordon Self of Covenant Health

A nurse stands outside the angel cradle door, where parents can leave their newborns anonymously. (Covenant Health)

A safe-haven program called angel cradle may have saved a baby's life earlier this year, a Covenant Health spokesperson says.

A healthy baby was dropped off at the Grey Nuns Hospital in the past six months or so, said Gordon Self, vice-president of mission, ethics and spirituality at Covenant Health.

Panicked parents who feel they have no where else to turn can leave their newborns anonymously at the angel cradle at the Grey Nuns and Misericordia hospitals.

Only one baby has been dropped off since the service was created in 2013. 
Gordon Self with Covenant Health said one baby was dropped off at the Grey Nuns hospital within the past six months. (Covenant Health)
 

"At least for one person, it's made a difference and it's been worth it," Self told CBC News.  

Angel cradle was conceived in response to cases where babies were left abandoned in other places in Canada.

The most recent known case was in Calgary, where a baby was found dead in a parking lot on Christmas Eve.

"We only have to think about the tragic story that's unfolding right now in Calgary to know how quickly a baby left in an unsafe environment can perish," Self said.

He said he can't speculate on whether the Calgary case would have ended differently if the same program had been available there.

"It's when people feel they have nowhere to turn and they may be in a moment of desperation, feel that they are tempted to leave a baby in a back alley, a dumpster or field, or some other unsafe context. That's the thing that we're trying to avoid."

A spokesperson for Alberta Health Services, Kerry Williamson, said social workers are available to talk to parents about adoption options and AHS will help link families with adoption agencies.

At the Grey Nuns and Misericordia hospitals in Edmonton, a light-blue door on the side of the emergency departments lets parents know they can leave the baby in a bassinet within the doorway. 
People can leave their newborn at the side of the emergency wards at Grey Nuns and Misericordia hospitals. (Covenant Health)

Within 60 seconds, an alarm tells staff there's a baby in the angel cradle. Staff will retrieve the baby and take it to the emergency room to get checked out. 

After that, the child is in the hands of the province's Child and Family Services department, Self said. 

Literature is left in the bassinet for the parent, especially important if it's a mother needing medical attention, Self said.

"We want to make sure that there's information on where you may go for help."

Covenant Health said it cost an initial $85,000 to create the two angel cradle spots at the hospitals.

"It's very simple to maintain and yet it can make all the difference for a newborn who might be left otherwise in an unsafe environment," Self said.

Covenant Health based its program on an angel cradle at St. Paul's hospital in Vancouver,

A spokesperson with Providence Health Care said two babies have been dropped off since that program started in 2010.

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