A MANHUNT has been launched for a bogus student nurse who abducted a three- day-old baby boy from the Dora Nginza Hospital in Port Elizabeth yesterday.
The newborn is thought to have been smuggled out of the hospital in a tog-bag by the woman, who had claimed to be a trainee nurse from the Lilitha College of Nursing.
The infant, who has not been named yet, is on “special treatment” and hospital authorities said it was vital he received his medication.
They declined to say what he was being treated for.
His distraught mother, Dianne Wabanie, 29, of Barcelona in Gelvandale, sobbed uncontrollably as authorities scoured the passages for the alleged abductor.
She said the abduction was heart-shattering. “I want to kill her. If I get this woman I will kill her.
“I cannot explain to you how I feel as I am just so sad. I haven’t stopped crying since he was taken.
“It happened so unexpectedly – the last thing I would ever have dreamed of was that a woman pretending to be a nurse would steal my baby boy.”
Shocked social workers tried to comfort her.
Wabanie has three other children, aged between six and 10.
According to hospital staff, the suspect was wearing a standard nurse’s uniform and claimed to have come from the nursing college to complete the last few hours of her practical, which she needed to graduate.
Health Department officials said the abduction had been well planned and the woman had managed to trick hospital staff into believing she was a trainee.
They denied a security breach.
Missing-child experts and police specialist investigators dismissed claims of syndicate involvement and said the incident was isolated.
The incident happened shortly after 6am when the “student nurse” told Wabanie she would look after the baby while she went to the bathroom.
“I thought nothing of it as the nurses are helpful and often look after the children when we have to go to the bathroom,” Wabanie said.
“I came back about half an hour later and went to the bed where I had left him with the ‘nurse’.
“As I pulled the top blanket away, I saw a pile of blankets underneath which, if I had not looked, I would have thought was my baby.”
Wabanie frantically questioned other nurses on the whereabouts of the woman and her baby boy.
“One nurse laughed and carried on working and the other wouldn’t answer me. I then went to another nurse, who said she wasn’t sure but thought the woman had already left,” she said.
“I was crying and told them my child was missing. They started checking all the wards, looking for the woman until someone said they had seen her leaving.”
The Health Department confirmed that the security cameras at the hospital were not working pending the finalisation of a tender to fix and upgrade the equipment.
When The Herald arrived at the hospital, there was no security inside the maternity ward, allowing patients, visitors and nurses to walk around freely.
Despite the abduction, five security guards at the boom gate failed to search vehicles entering and leaving the hospital.
Shocked social worker Pamela Rubushe, who is based at the Dora Nginza Hospital, was roped in to assist with trauma counselling and notified security and the police of the abduction.
“I am shocked at what this mother has to go through. This is the first time anything like this has happened here.
“After we attempted to track the imposter, one nurse came forward saying that she had seen the woman leaving with a bag. The only thing we can think is that she carried the baby out in the bag.”
“The supposed nurse only identified herself as S Maku and claimed to be a student from Lilitha College of Nursing.
“It isn’t unusual as trainees come from there often to complete their practical. We phoned the college after we realised the child was gone and they said their records showed no one by that name enrolled there.”
A tearful Rubushe said the woman had played her role well and had not raised suspicions.
“Everyone says this woman looked like she had a passion for the job and was very good with the children.
“She was in full uniform and there was no reason to suspect that she was an imposter. We are completely shocked and devastated that this could happen right in front of us.”
Wabanie underwent a caesarean section on February 26 and had remained in the hospital for observation.
Health spokesman Sizwe Kupelo said the incident was not viewed as a security breach, but rather a breach of internal protocol.
“This is a very unfortunate incident, but this woman really managed to fool everyone – from the sister in charge of the ward to all the other nurses and also the patients,” he said.
“Even if there had been a guard posted at the door of the maternity ward [it] would not have prevented the abduction … this woman worked an entire shift as a student nurse, so there was no reason for security or the other nurses to suspect that she would steal a baby.”
Kupelo said internal procedures had been violated as the Lilitha College of Nursing would usually send a letter asking permission for trainees to assist at the hospital.
“This woman really fooled everyone. We are conducting an internal investigation and are going to look at corrective measures that can be put in place to ensure this does not happen again.”
Kupelo said the department would also look at “reinforcing internal procedures” as well as possibly putting an access card system in place.
An officer from the police Family Violence, Child Protection and Sexual Offences Unit said hospital abductions were “not at all common” and this case appeared to have been well organised and preplanned.
Police spokesman Dumile Gwavu said an extensive search had been launched for the suspect and the baby.
Missing Children South Africa spokeswoman Judy Olivier said in most cases the abductors posed as a nurse or offered assistance to the mother in some way.
“Once they have gained the mother’s trust, they find some way to be left with the child and then disappear.
“People steal newborn babies for various reasons.
“Human trafficking is one, but we have found it is usually mothers who have lost their own children or cannot have children of their own.”