Union calls for probe into security at Western Psych

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The president of the union representing 200 workers at the Western Psychiatric Institute and Clinic called Friday for a "full investigation" into the shootings that left two dead and seven injured.

In a statement, Neal Bisno, who heads SEIU Healthcare Pennsylvania, asked for "measures be put into place to prevent a tragedy like this from ever happening again."

The union represents registered nurses, clerks, housekeepers and other employees at the psychiatric hospital.

A union spokesman, Neil Bhaerman, declined to discuss security issues at Western Psych. Several employees criticized some aspects of the facility's security, particularly in the lobby where the shooting took place.

Mr. Bhaerman also said the union was not ready to discuss in more detail what it hoped to focus on in any investigation.

He said he believed that two of the injured were SEIU members.

The union raised concerns about security issues in the health field and used the incident to underscore the dangers facing workers in that sector.

"This violent assault is a stark reminder of the danger that health care workers can face at work," Mr. Bisno said in the statement.

"For each fatality, there are literally thousands of non-fatal assaults perpetrated on our nation's healthcare workforce The health care sector has one of the highest incidences of nonfatal workplace attacks. The rate for behavioral health workers is even higher. We must do everything possible to protect those that care for us."

The union said it has reached out to UPMC to offer cooperation in any internal investigation as well as counseling to assist employees affected by the shooting.

"Yesterday was a tragic day for Pittsburgh and for healthcare workers," Mr. Bisno said. "Our prayers and thoughts are with all of the victims, their families, and the WPIC community."

Elizabeth Concordia, UPMC's executive vice president, said Friday in an internal statement:

"While UPMC's current security measures are in line with the standards nationwide, all procedures are being rigorously reviewed. The trade-off between public access and security is an issue all hospitals in major metropolitan areas have struggled with in recent years.

"Unfortunately, random acts of violence can't be predicted. In addition, we are providing comprehensive support and counseling to our employees and co-workers of the victims."

Jonathan D. Silver: jsilver@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1962.


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