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Zappala rips UPMC response about reporting assaults

| Wednesday, March 20, 2013, 9:35 p.m.

Allegheny County District Attorney Stephen A. Zappala Jr. on Wednesday ripped comments from a UPMC spokeswoman about when police should investigate assaults at Western Psychiatric Institute and Clinic in Oakland.

“They have to report to police crimes against children,” Zappala said. “As a practical matter, when nurses and others have evidence of crimes and they don't turn that over, that's a problem — a big problem.”

A mother told the Tribune-Review this week that staff at Western Psych informed her three days after that another patient inappropriately touched her 7-year-old son's genitals. Police are investigating.

“We agree with the district attorney and do in fact report incidents to police when we suspect that there may be criminal behavior,” UPMC spokeswoman Gloria Kreps said.

Zappala was responding to Kreps' comments that appeared in the Trib on Wednesday: “Involvement of police is on a case-by-case basis. We conduct an internal investigation, during which the patient is interviewed by a physician to validate the veracity of any allegation.”

Zappala said notifying police on a case-by-case basis misstates the law.

“If they have policies that exist that prohibit bringing police into crimes against children, that's a big problem for UPMC,” Zappala said.

Zappala said he is reviewing the incident as well as whether UPMC followed proper reporting procedures.

Police on Friday charged a male patient, 14, with sexually assaulting a female patient, 8, while the two were alone in a playroom.

The mother of the 7-year-old boy called Western Psych on Monday after learning about the assault against the girl to ask about the welfare of her autistic son, a patient there. She said the hospital informed her that he had been touched inappropriately by another patient, and a doctor later provided more detail.

The hospital said the incident happened Friday, but the boy didn't tell staff until Monday.

The Tribune-Review is not identifying the mother to protect her son's identity.

Bobby Kerlik is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-320-7886 or bkerlik@tribweb.com.

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