Western Psychiatric to Review Security Measures

By Jill King Greenwood and Luis Fabregas | Tribune-Review/Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, March 9, 2012 | Go to article overview

Western Psychiatric to Review Security Measures


Jill King Greenwood and Luis Fabregas, Tribune-Review/Pittsburgh Tribune-Review


Thursday's shootings will bring a thorough review of Western Psychiatric Institute and Clinic's security measures, its leader said.

"Safety and security are our utmost concern," said hospital President Claudia Roth.

The review will include determining whether the facility should place metal detectors at the entrance of the 16-floor building. The only metal detector is located in the hospital's emergency department on the first floor, Roth said. All visitors must sign in at the front desk and obtain a visitor's pass, according to Western Psych's website. Anyone entering the emergency department must empty their pockets, and all purses and handbags are searched, according to the website.

The task of checking visitors to the patient units -- accessible from the main lobby on the first floor -- falls on nurses who use a hand-held metal detector, said Lois Cusick, a registered nurse in the long-term care unit and president of the employee nurses union.

"When they started that policy, I objected to that because I didn't feel personally that I was trained to handle a situation in which there would be a gun," said Cusick, who was off work yesterday but spent the day fielding calls from worried co-workers.

The hospital requires police officers to check their weapons. Pittsburgh police Officer Dan O'Hara, president of the Fraternal Order of Police Fort Pitt Lodge No. 1, called that policy "insane."

"I, nor any of my members, will ever enter that facility without their firearms," O'Hara said. "That facility is no longer secure. It's proven it's not secure."

Cusick said she supports beefing up security with metal detectors at the main entrance.

"I hope something like this helps to shift the responsibility away from the nursing staff," she said.

One frequent visitor said she feels safe there.

"It's not a place I would imagine something like this would happen," said Alice Applegate, a psychologist who runs a private practice in Allison Park and has visited numerous patients at the facility.

Others complained that people encounter security measures only when entering elevators to patient floors or specialized areas from the open lobby and reception area. …

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