St. Paul’s Hospital helping at-risk babies
By Laureen McMahon
The B.C. Catholic
VANCOUVER–St. Paul’s Hospital in Vancouver is the first hospital in Canada to offer a temporary respite shelter for infants in danger of being abandoned and even dying because their troubled mothers cannot care for them.
On May 3 the hospital launched the Angel’s Cradle, a repository for babies near their Burrard Street Emergency Department entrance, where mothers can leave a newborn anonymously. An angel sign is visible from the street to indicate the cradle’s location.
Funding for the project’s construction and for information brochures sent to local social service agencies has come from St. Paul’s Gift Shop and a grant of $10,000 from Project Advance of the Vancouver archdiocese.
Laura Hughes of the Project Advance office told The B.C. Catholic that the money was made available through the Special Needs projects fund with the approval of Archbishop J. Michael Miller, CSB. “Our steering committee felt it was a very appropriate choice, especially in light of the historical connection to the Church,” she noted.
When someone opens the door to the Angel’s Cradle, explained Dr. Geoffrey Cundiff, head of the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology at St. Paul’s, they have 30 seconds to place the child in a bassinet equipped with blankets and a cuddly teddy bear before an alarm sounds. Hospital staff will not approach.
When the door is closed, triggering the alarm, staff retrieve the infant through an inner door and admit it for a medical exam. After an assessment and treatment, if necessary, the child goes into the care of the Ministry of Children and Family Development.
Dr. Cundiff, who began researching the Angel’s Cradle idea two years ago, told The B.C. Catholic that it’s a good way for the hospital to better serve its highly transient, often low income, city-centre patient population.
“Babies have been left at our Comox Street entrance and at bus stops nearby. In the last 15 years there have been seven abandoned-baby deaths in the Lower Mainland. The Angel’s Cradle reflects our mission, because historically, religious orders have always cared for orphaned and abandoned children, and the Sisters of Providence pioneered health care in B.C. and founded St. Paul’s.”