Some armed robbers on Sunday night allegedly invaded the paediatric unit of the University of Calabar Teaching Hospital and stole three new born babies and some cash.
The robbers, numbering about 10, also reportedly stole mobile telephones and beat up the nurses on duty as well as nursing mothers and pregnant women in an operation that eyewitnesses said lasted for less than 10 minutes.
A nursing mother, Mrs Helen Eteng, said the incident did not last up to 10 minutes.
It was gathered from health workers and patients, who were victims of the robbery attack, that the robbers did not wear masks, were well armed and easily gained entry into the maternity section, and moved from bed to bed to pick up the babies.
Nurses and other health workers were seen discussing the incident in hushed tones on Monday morning.
A nurse seen consoling a sobbing nursing mother narrated to journalists what happened but pleaded not to be named.
She said, “Yesterday (Sunday) night, several armed robbers gained access to this (paediatric) unit. They came with guns and machetes. They beat up my colleagues and some nursing mothers. They took away some babies and money from the patients and nursing mothers.
“The security in this hospital has been very porous. Lives of patients, nurses and doctors are at risk. There is nowhere in this hospital that is safe. There is so much stealing going on. Visitors are no longer controlled. People troop into the wards without any check. Many, including thieves, come in the guise of being patients’ relatives.
“Hospital properties are stolen frequently, while electricity supply is a big challenge in the hospital, because the diesel and generator parts are stolen frequently by the workers and armed robbers.”
It was gathered that the personnel of private security firms and regular policemen had for some months now withdrawn their services to the hospital over non-payment of their salaries by the management of the health institution several months.
However, the Chief Medical Director, UCTH, Prof. Thomas Agan, denied the occurrence of the incident when he was contacted on the phone on Monday.
The Cross River State Commissioner of Police, Mr Hafiz Inuwa, said he could not speak on the incident because he was out of Calabar.
Similarly, the state Police Public Relations Officer, Irene Ugbo, said the incident had not been reported to the command.