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Residents raise safety concerns after recent escape from Hawaii - Honolulu, Hawaii news, sports & weather - KITV Channel 4

Residents raise safety concerns after recent escape from Hawaii State Hospital

KANEOHE, Hawaii -

Kaneohe residents expressed their concerns at Thursday night's neighborhood board meeting, amid yet another escape from Hawaii State Hospital. Since 2010, more than a dozen patients have escaped the state's psychiatric hospital.

"It's not just the person who walks away, it's the system that allows-- that makes it possible for that person to walk away," Mahealani Cypher with the Kaneohe Neighborhood Board said. 

On Sunday, Randall Saito became the latest patient to flee Hawaii State Hospital, leaving many community members that are concerned for their safety, wanting answers.

"The escape was the result of a major breakdown in hospital procedures and we know our staff failed to properly oversee and supervise the patient," Hawaii State Hospital Administrator, William May said. 

Just a day after Saito was caught in California, May stood before dozens of community members to address their concerns. He also shared preliminary findings from the hospital's initial investigation, with a timeline leading up to when the public was alerted about the escape.

According to May, Saito was last seen on site on surveillance video just before 10 a.m. Sunday.

"At that point, hospital staff should've reported Mr. Saito as missing when he did not check in at regular intervals every hour," May said. "Based on a review of the records at that area, there were inconsistencies with procedures and accountability."

It wasn't until 7 p.m. that same day, when the on-duty nursing supervisor was notified that Saito was not accounted for and a grounds search was conducted, May said. About an hour later, he says the hospital notified the Department of Public Safety which then sent out an alert not long after. 

Since Saito's escape, seven hospital employees have been placed on leave without pay. With an internal investigation still on-going, May said he could not get into specifics, but did highlight the changes that have been and are being made to help avoid future incidents.

The Hawaii State Hospital administration says it has immediately stopped all unescorted off-campus and on-campus privileges for patients. The hospital is also reviewing and evaluating all levels of patient privileges.

"Procurement of additional security fencing is being expedited," May added.

But for some residents the proposed changes aren't enough. Many at Thursday's meeting still had questions regarding other ways to prevent an escape from happening again.

"We need a timely warning when things go wrong." one resident said. "Can we get an amber alert sign?"

"How come these patients aren't in uniforms," questioned another.

"What are the true solutions?.. not just putting up fences," Cypher added. 

Several members of the Kaneohe neighborhood board also expressed their concerns, and asked for reassurance.

"Honestly, at the heart of the whole situation, it's a breach of trust.. and it's a trust of the community. It;s in your own backyard and it's in our backyard.. and I guess I'm asking what assurances do we have as a community that this will never happen again," Daniel Kaanana said.

But the question that appeared to be the minds of many, was why did it take so long to alert the public?

"Once we realized he was gone, the notification process happened the way it was suppose to happen.. it's very important that we are clear on that point. We did not sit on the information.. granted we should've known he was gone," May said. 

May told the Kaneohe Neighborhood Board he could not guarantee that another escape wouldn't happen, but did say Hawaii State Hospital will do everything in it's power possible to minimize future incidents.

"When there is a breakdown in our protocol or our policies-- in our good policies--  then something like this is possible.. I can't-- no one is going to stand here in my position at any psych hospital in the world and guarantee you, or anyone that this will never happen," he added.

May said next week he plans to meet with the head of the Kaneohe Neighborhood Board and Windward Community College to discuss better ways to alert the public.