Hawaii hospital authorities draw governor’s ire as mental patient escapes to California; 7 suspended

Hawaii hospital authorities draw governor’s ire as mental patient escapes to California; 7 suspended

The Hawaii Department of Health (DOH) suspended seven state hospital employees for alleged lapses following the recent escape of a mental patient accused of murder. The action came after Governor David Ige lambasted the Hawaii State Hospital authorities for failing to notify the incident immediately.

A media report, citing the San Joaquin County Sheriff’s Office (SJSO), said the 59-year-old psychiatric patient, Soma Kaito (name changed), had escaped from the Hawaii hospital on Nov. 12, 2017. He was arrested in northern California three days later after being alerted by a taxi driver.

“San Joaquin County Sheriff’s Deputies arrested Randall Saito, the Hawaii State Hospital escapee, at approximately 10:30 this morning, November 15, 2017. The arrest was made as the result of a tip received from an alert taxi cab driver… was arrested in the area of Highway 99 and Waterloo Road in Stockton,” the SJSO said in a statement posted on its Facebook page along with the photographs of the patient.

Kaito, according to reports, was committed to the Hawaii State Hospital on the island of Oahu in 1981 after being acquitted of first-degree murder charge on the ground of insanity. As per the Honolulu Police Department, he had left the hospital outside the state capital on Sunday morning and did not return. Kaito reportedly took a taxi to reach the Honolulu airport from where he chartered a flight to Maui before boarding a flight to San Jose, California.

Acting on a cabbie’s tip-off, the SJSO personnel arrested Kaito on Nov. 15 morning in Stockton, California. He has been charged with felony escape and his bail has been set at $500,000, Hawaii Attorney General Doug Chin told newsmen. He would now be extradited to Hawaii from California. He might be put in jail instead of the hospital.

Hospital’s negligence

Upset over nearly 10-hour delay in reporting the incident to the law enforcement agencies by the hospital authorities, Gov. Ige pulled them up. “I am deeply concerned that such a dangerous person was able to escape from the Hawaii state hospital and remain undetected for such a long period of time… Authorities and the public should have been notified much, much sooner,” he was quoted as saying.

The Hawaii DOH placed seven hospital employees on “off-duty status without pay” and ordered an investigation into the lapses. “The Hawaii State Hospital staff takes all escapes seriously and has safeguards in place to minimize the chances of these from occurring. A thorough investigation is now underway to gather more details to identify areas for improvement,” it said in a statement, refraining from naming the accused patient or his problem.

“We are also aware of the need to support the safety of the public and per protocol, any escape is reported to law enforcement to expedite searches for patients, including the patient who escaped from the Hawaii State Hospital on Sunday,” the DOH statement said further.

Understanding patient’s needs important for recovery

Even though the DOH avoided giving much details about the patient, nobody can deny the fact that he had spent over 38 years in the hospital. He might be involved in a murder in a disturbed mental state, but that doesn’t mean all mental patients are violent, or any mental illness takes so long to be treated. By misrepresenting facts or distorting them, we may end up stigmatizing the mental health disorders further.

We need to understand that any mental condition, if addressed on time, can be treated if can’t always be cured. There is probably a need to identify the circumstances Kaito left the place that was his home for almost four decades. There might be many Kaitos living among us and we are unaware and ignorant. Knowing some vital symptoms and timely intervention might give somebody a new life.

The 247 Mental Health Helpline is a resource which is committed to helping people who need care. For immediate assistance, reach out to us at our mental health helpline number (855) 653-8178. Alternatively, you can chat online with our expert who can guide you to a mental health rehab center for your loved one in need.