Last week, a man walked in to Wyoming Medical Center armed with a gun. It wasn’t immediately clear how he got in, or how he managed to enter a section of the hospital that is not open to the public. He was high on LSD, he allegedly told police. At some point, investigators say, he took out a handgun and started firing.
Luckily, no one was harmed. But the situation could easily have ended differently. Consider if this had been a well thought-out plan to attack the hospital, rather than the mindless act it appears to have been.
The hospital takes security seriously. With the exception of the emergency room, all outer doors are locked after hours. Guards patrol the campus and parking garages. Staff require key cards to access critical areas, and visitors cannot enter or leave the mother and baby unit without phoning security. But this incident illustrates that there are weaknesses – and they need to be addressed.
While the county owns the building, the hospital itself is run by a nonprofit. Following such an incident, WMC is not legally obligated to provide any information to the public regarding how this person obtained access to a closed ward with a deadly weapon. But the hospital is a public institution, providing care to not only residents of Casper, but patients from across the state. The entire public relies on the hospital for a range of health care needs – from emergency care to surgery to childbirth; the hospital serves everyone.
And the last thing anyone wants to worry about while they are receiving medical care is the possibility of a violent person entering the hospital. Because of that, the hospital does have public accountability.
Immediately following the incident, the Casper Police Department and hospital staff held a press conference to inform the public. This was definitely the right move. Going forward, we urge them to continue to be transparent and candid about the process.
An investigation into how this person entered a closed unit is critical. That investigation can be led by the hospital board, the police department or the county commissioners – or all of the above. What is important is they get to the bottom of what happened and make recommendations to prevent a similar event in the future. And just as importantly, they need to share their findings with the public, as well as their plans for how to prevent this from happening again.