Report details weaknesses in Western Psych security
Share with others:
A new security assessment of Western Psychiatric Institute and Clinic commissioned by the district attorney's office lists numerous vulnerabilities at the Oakland facility eight months after John Shick shot several people March 8, killing one.
The report, completed earlier this month by Beaver County-based J.P. Hudson & Associates Inc. and released Thursday, describes an "overcrowded" and "cluttered" security room at Western Psych, an inadequate key-card system, personal panic buttons that do not work everywhere in the building and an "antiquated" video surveillance system.
Nurses are "fearful of getting hurt," the report said, citing the Shick rampage and other incidents in which nurses have been threatened or injured.
A major issue of concern the report focuses on is door security, which now requires only the swipe of a card or the proximity of a card to a reader. The report recommends the use of both a card and a key code or some other unique identifier for each employee.
"In the case of the Shick shooting, had he obtained a card from an employee, he could have gone throughout the hospital creating a substantial more amount of damage than what had already occurred," according to the report.
"You should have a dual authentication," said the consultant, John Hudson, a former U.S. Secret Service agent. "It's becoming a standard."
UPMC declined to respond to a list of questions about the report. Spokeswoman Gloria Kreps said Western Psych now has a metal detector, an armed around-the-clock security guard and security officers who wand people entering through the fifth-floor parking garage.
Also, Ms. Kreps said, visitors receive identification badges "after security officers have searched their belongings by hand."
But Zachary Zobrist, vice president of SEIU Healthcare Pennsylvania, which represents about 200 workers at Western Psych, said the changes are not enough.
"Right now bags and things like that don't go through the metal detector. They get passed around and searched," he said.
Mr. Hudson also was critical of how the unarmed security guards are handling door duties during what he called a "transitional" security phase for the facility.
"What they still aren't doing are positive ID checks" that involve matching someone's face to a photo ID and even asking them information such as their birth date. "They're [only] using it to look at the names and write the names down."
Mr. Zobrist said the findings bear out concerns that unionized employees long have been expressing.
"I think this report validates the frustration in many ways that employees have had," Mr. Zobrist said. "For a health system of this size, some of these things should have been done and invested in already."
Since the shooting by Shick, a 30-year-old schizophrenic who killed 25-year-old therapist Michael Schaab and wounded five others before being fatally shot by police, UPMC and the Allegheny County district attorney's office have had a series of meetings about security.
One of the report's recommendations is to install ballistic armor at the main entrance and use protective armor within the walls.
Receptionist Kathryn Leight, who was wounded by Shick, had no protective barrier around her.
Allegheny County District Attorney Stephen A. Zappala Jr. released the J.P. Hudson analysis and another report by Condortech Services Inc. that recommended specific security upgrades -- including nearly doubling the number of video surveillance cameras -- and provided cost estimates totaling $2.1 million.
In early October, Mr. Zappala described Western Psych's security as "negligible or non-existent" but said he had had productive discussions with UPMC.
The hospital system, Mr. Zappala said, planned to invest roughly $10 million in safety upgrades at Western Psych and other facilities.
First Published November 30, 2012 12:00 am