Hawaii State Hospital administrator William May was in the hot seat at Thursday night’s Kanoehe Neighborhood Board meeting.
Chairman Mo Radke says residents have a lot of questions about Randall Saito’s escape Sunday.
“How did he get a backpack? How did he get a cell phone? How did he get money? How did he get that plane charter to go to Maui? How did he get on a Hawaiian Airlines flight to San Jose?” asked Radke.
Members of the community and neighborhood board called what happened a breakdown of trust.
During a nearly 45-minute question-and-answer session, May blamed the escape on a breakdown of protocol.
Staff should have been monitoring the grounds and should have known Saito was gone, he said.
“Can I give you an assurance that this will never happen again? No. I’m sorry, I can’t,” May said. “It’s a psychiatric hospital. It’s not a prison, and anything shy of caging the entire campus in… Patients have to be able to be given the level of privilege that is clinically appropriate. They have to be able to show to a judge that yes, I can handle this responsibility in a proper way so that I can work my way toward discharge.”
May says the investigation is ongoing and the number of employees put on 30-day unpaid leave remains at seven.
We stopped by Koolau Clubhouse, a community center that caters to individuals with mental illness, which Saito had access to. They refused to answer specific questions about Saito.
The Hawaii Government Employees Association union would not comment on the seven state hospital employees who were suspended without pay following Saito’s escape.
A source confirms the suspended workers include nurses and technicians.
“If there’s a safety and security problem with keeping people on the property, that’s something not related to HIPAA (Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996). It’s related to safety, security, and administration. That’s the Department of Health. That’s the governor, to the Department of Health, to the administrators of the hospital, to the employees of the hospital,” said Radke.
From his jailhouse interview in California, Saito accused hospital employees of abuse.
The health department responded in a statement:
“The Hawaii State Hospital provides inpatient psychiatric services for court-ordered individuals within a safe and therapeutic environment. The hospital recently earned national re-accreditation by the Joint Commission. As part of the extensive and detailed requirements to renew accreditation, the hospital must maintain a high standard of patient safety and quality of care. All credible allegations of abuse at the hospital are investigated thoroughly by an independent agency. If there was any neglect, mistreatment, or abuse at the hospital, then corrective actions are instituted as required.”