HONOLULU (KHON2) — A nurses union is calling for more security at hospitals in Hawaiʻi after a gun scare incident at the Straub Medical Center.

The Hawaiʻi Nurses Association president said incidents involving dangerous weapons are increasing at local hospitals and facilities across the nation. They said more needs to be done to protect healthcare workers.

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It’s an incident the Hawaiʻi Nurses Association said they are not fully prepared to deal with.

Nurses said they found a gun inside a patient’s backpack at Straub Medical Center.

The patient apparently left the backpack behind after demanding to be discharged. Police later arrested the man.

“Our focus is on the safety of the staff, right. So, at that time, there was really a lack of communication. And, it showed a real evidence of a lack of process. Nobody knew what’s going on, rumors flew through the hospital.” said Dan Ross.

The Straub Medical Center COO Travis Clegg responded to the union’s claims in writing. 

Clegg said, “Straub’s security team and leadership immediately briefed and addressed the concerns of staff members who were working that evening and the next day. Security closely monitored all entrances following the incident and offered and to escort staff as they left the Straub campus.”

The Hawaiʻi Nurses Association president said the incident that happened at Straub could happen at any hospital. He’s now calling for more security checks during the admissions process.

“It is not part of nursing duties, to confiscate guns and to go through people’s belongings. That is a security function,” explained Ross.

He’s also told hospital officials to consider hiring off duty officers for an additional layer of security.

Risk of violence at hospitals is not unique to Hawaiʻi.

The Queen’s Health System Director of Corporate Communications Cedric Yamanaka shared the following statement.

“At Queen’s, the safety of our patients and caregivers is our highest priority. We have a number of security procedures in place, which include having our security teams conduct screenings in areas such as the Emergency Departments and ambulance bays. We also have signs posted indicating that no weapons are allowed on our campuses. On the rare occasion that our security team finds a weapon, it is confiscated and turned in to authorities. In addition, we are implementing the Commure Strongline duress alert system. This personal safety device, which is being deployed to all of our caregivers, sends out a silent alert to security personnel and other designated responders when activated. Our goal is to ensure a safe workplace for all of our hardworking and dedicated caregivers.”

said Cedric Yamanaka

In fact, the CDC’s occupational safety branch places nurses at a far higher risk of workplace violence compared to other professions.

Healthcare settings see higher instances of workplace violence compared to other professions. The Hawaiʻi State Legislature increased penalties in recent years. 

The Healthcare Association of Hawaiʻi President Hilton Raethel said, “Upgraded an attack on a healthcare worker from a misdemeanor to a felony. And, because one of the concerns previously was that if there was an assault against a healthcare worker, if it was just a misdemeanor, many of our workers felt that that was essentially a slap on the wrist.”

Ross said the union worked with the Queen’s Health Systems to place a metal detector at the E.R. Entrance.

“On the rare occasion that our security team finds a weapon, it is confiscated and turned in to authorities,” said a representative from Queens.

Ross said Straub declined to meet with HNA leadership after sending the hospital a Demand to Bargain letter. 

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Clegg said Straub nurses who are also HNA representatives have been involved in the safety review of the incident, and said they remain in contact with HNA leadership. 

Straub adds that it is working to reinforce its current safety practices.