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In a dire sign of Hungary's economic troubles, a hospital has installed an incubator at its entrance to encourage distressed parents to give up their babies instead of killing them.

Last year, 24 newborns were killed across the country. The Agost Schoepf-Merei Hospital figured that might not happen if parents had a way to give up their children with no questions asked, and installed the incubator a week ago."It is fully operational, located just inside the entrance, and a healthy baby would be fine in the incubator for hours," said Dr. Katalin Horvath, adding that no one has yet made use of the facility.

The area is separated from the hospital's lobby by a glass door, where the reception desk is staffed around the clock and an abandoned baby would be spotted within minutes.

Hungary recorded its largest number of infant-killing cases - 38 - in 1983, when the government announced price hikes. The number fell with the collapse of communism in 1989, but by 1994 the total had risen to 28.

"The state of the country's economy is closely linked with infanticide," Judit Cseres, a psychologist employed by the National Police headquarters, told the newspaper Magyar Nemzet.