By Bettina Chang

Something was wrong with the newborn that the nurses brought Thembekile Mthembu - the baby was unfamiliar, its clothes and hair different, and a rash had developed on the child's nose.

The baby was definitely not hers. But when Mthembu voiced her concern, the nurse told the 27-year-old mother that she was mistaken.

"She said 'these babies all look the same, how can you know it's not yours?'," Mthembu said.

Baby Anele was born last Friday, but Mthembu was sure she knew which baby was hers. She checked the tag on the baby's foot and found that it was marked with another name.

Confused and frightened for the health of Anele, Mthembu rushed off to the nursery. There, in the wrong cot, lay her baby with the proper identification tag and right clothes.

Mthembu's mother, Agnes Mabizela, was furious at the nurses for their negligence.

"What if my daughter was (HIV) positive and had accidentally breastfed that other baby? Or what if a mother that was (HIV) positive breastfed our baby? It could have been any other disease, the baby could be infected," said Mabizela, who is a nurse.

Park Lane hospital manager Nellie Koen said the matter was under investigation.

In an e-mail statement, Koen said: "I have personally not encountered this type of situation during my tenure at the hospital or during my career in the industry."

Hospital officials told Mthembu that Anele was never given to another mother or breastfed. They said she had been placed in an incubator, and that is when the swop occurred.

According to hospital officials, the family should not be concerned because the mix-up was sorted out in "a matter of minutes" and nobody was infected.

However, Mthembu and Mabizela are upset because the hospital has not taken responsibility for the mistake.

They reported the incident to a hospital superintendent, and Mthembu identified the nurse who gave her the wrong baby.

The nurse then told her supervisor that Mthembu went into the nursery and took the wrong baby while the nurse was repairing a wheel on the cot.

"I hate that the nurse is lying and blaming me for the mix-up," Mthembu said. "I don't want her to lose her job, I just want her to admit she was wrong."

Mthembu was unable to sleep in the hospital after the incident on Saturday night, and is happy to be back at home with her mother and the baby.

The family lodged a complaint on Saturday, but have not heard from the hospital yet.

They want a formal apology from the hospital and a guarantee that this kind of mix-up will never happen again.

"Even if no one is sick now, the nurses did something wrong to my daughter... It is negligent of the nurses not to identify kids," said Mabizela. - Additional reporting by Nokuthula Dladla