Metal detector, armed guard in place at Western Psych in Pittsburgh

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UPMC has added a metal detector and stationed an armed security guard at the O'Hara Street entrance to the Western Psychiatric Institute and Clinic, where a mentally ill gunman killed one employee and wounded five others this spring before police killed him.

Spokeswoman Gloria Kreps said in an email that UPMC also intends to install metal detectors at its other hospitals in Allegheny County and at UPMC Hamot in Erie.

The changes come after UPMC administrators met with numerous officials, including Allegheny County District Attorney Stephen A. Zappala Jr., to discuss security following the March 8 rampage by John F. Shick, a 30-year-old schizophrenic former graduate student who walked into the Oakland clinic with two handguns and opened fire.

Ms. Kreps said an armed security guard also will use a wand to screen people at the fifth-floor entrance to Western Psych, which connects a parking garage to the clinic.

Employees with ID will not need to pass through metal detectors. She said she was not sure on Wednesday night who made the decision to allow employees to bypass the screening system or whether the armed guards at the fifth-floor entrance would be police officers, hospital employees or contracted security guards.

Zachary Zobrist, vice president of SEIU Healthcare Pennsylvania, which represents about 200 UPMC workers, said select employees learned of the changes while they were speaking with their managers on Tuesday.

"It's long overdue but a step in the right direction," Mr. Zobrist said of the changes. "The screening and wanding is a good step, but it's not going to address some of the other security and safety issues."

Mr. Zobrist said union representatives will meet with hospital management on Monday to discuss safety issues.

Some union leaders worried that the hospital might cut staff to pay for the increased security measures. "We're hoping they're not robbing Peter to pay Paul, putting metal detectors in but reducing staff," he said.

Ms. Kreps said, "Staff reductions are not planned at this time."

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Jonathan D. Silver: or 412-263-1962. Liz Navratil:


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