Security system fails at NJ psychiatric hospital

The electronic master control system at the new Greystone Park Psychiatric Hospital failed Monday afternoon for three hours, disabling door locks and safety systems at the $190 million state facility in Parsippany for the second time in three weeks, state officials confirmed yesterday.

Greystone chief executive officer Janet Monroe declared a hospital "state of emergency" at 3:30 p.m. to secure the 450-bed medical center until the situation was resolved at 6:30 p.m., said Greystone employees.

The problem was caused by work being done by a subcontractor to integrate the hospital's electronic systems with an administrative cottage that houses Greystone's risk management office, said Ellen Lovejoy, a spokeswoman for the state Department of Human Services, which runs Greystone.

Employees said the problem began at 3:15 p.m. when icons on the computerized control system showed doors were unlocked. A physical check confirmed that analysis, prompting assignment of staff to guard doors to ensure patients did not leave their wards, they said.

A similar problem occurred Nov. 23, when the electronic system failed for seven hours. Extra staff were kept on duty at overtime pay until a failed processor could be replaced, according to state officials. Officials of the state Economic Development Authority, which oversaw construction of the new Greystone, said an analysis is being done to determine why the technology failed that day.

A custom-made "programmable logic system" that runs the new hospital is a complex processor designed to consolidate five systems and provide a single-point, integrated touch-screen network, said state officials. Included are a security access card system, intercom system, alarm system, security cameras and a code blue/gray emergency alarm system.

Lovejoy said the system is very sensitive. In the event of a fire, for example, she said the programmed response is to open the doors. As a result, when the system is being worked on, it can react as though it has been compromised or an emergency exists, unlocking the doors, she said.

"We are working with EDA to get the kinks out of the system," she said.

Alan Hoffmann, president of Vitetta Corp., architect of the new Greystone, yesterday expressed confidence in the system

"The design is fine," Hoffmann said. "It's a new and intricate system. Like any new system, they just have to work a few bugs out. But it will be fine."

State officials could not estimate overtime costs yesterday for Monday's situation. But Greystone officials are trying to coordinate a "volunteer pool" of staffers to be available for anticipated and unanticipated system shutdowns to limit overtime costs, they said.

The new Greystone serves patients mostly from Bergen, Essex, Hudson, Morris, Passaic, Sussex and Warren counties. It replaced the original hospital, which dated to the 1870s and has been closed.