The abduction of a newborn from a Bangor, Maine, hospital nearly a year ago has prompted Maine's hospitals to develop their own version of an "all points bulletin."
The state's 41 hospitals have set up a system that enables them to inform one another about kidnappings, bomb scares and other security-related problems.
Under the system, a hospital alerts state police about a problem through a fax link. Police dispatchers in Augusta then feed the fax back into a machine and it is automatically sent to hospitals across the state.
The new information system already has been used twice, said James Harnar, a vice president at the Maine Hospital Association.
Last Friday officials who were concerned that a woman at a southern Maine hospital might try to kidnap a child provided her description to other hospitals. Police also were informed, but no arrest was made.
Several weeks ago, hospitals statewide were notified when a person phoned in a bomb threat to Miles Memorial Hospital in Damariscotta. The hospital was searched and no bomb was found, Harnar said.
In both cases, officials were worried that the people involved might try again at other hospitals.
The notifications "told hospitals that they needed to be more on the lookout and aware," Harnar said. "It sent up a warning flare."
In the past, hospitals in the same region often shared information about a disturbance as a courtesy. But there was no statewide system for getting the word out.
Hospital officials said they do not believe there has been an increase in crimes or threatening behavior at hospitals across Maine. The infant abduction at Eastern Maine Medical Center last year, however, provided a wake-up call.
Nicole Yablonka, a divorced mother of two, posed as a nurse and told the baby's mother she was taking the baby for blood tests. The kidnapping came after Yablonka had pretended to be pregnant for several months, stuffing her clothes with towels in a ruse that fooled some of her friends and family members.
Yablonka, of East Corinth, was convicted in May of kidnapping and received a 10-year sentence with all but one year suspended.
The new system is expected to help state police as well.
Law enforcement officials will be able to quickly notify hospitals by fax about major accidents or natural disasters, for example, so preparations can be made. Also, police will be able to more uniformly get the word out about wounded criminal suspects who may try to seek medical treatment.