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New hospital building to be 'nearly escape-proof'

"State-of-the-Art" plus "Safe-and-Secure." That's how the Department of Health is touting it's soon-to-be built foren...

Posted: May 17, 2018 1:29 PM
Updated: May 17, 2018 1:29 PM

"State-of-the-Art" plus "Safe-and-Secure." That's how the Department of Health is touting it's soon-to-be built forensic building at the Hawaii State Hospital.

The 170,000 square foot building will be a modern therapeutic environment, with courtyards and a rehabilitation mall featuring areas that can change from classrooms to various forms of therapy.

"There are some design elements that will change the way we provide quality care for our community," said Governor David Ige.

The governor helped fast track the design and construction of the building, which is expected to open at the end of 2020.

But ever since patient Randall Saito walked away from the State hospital last November, safety has a big concern and will be an important feature of the new building.

"This building give patients a sense of privacy and dignity, but also makes sure everyone stays there and are safe when they do so," said Joel Dvoskin with Nevada Behavioral Health & Wellness Council.

The $140-million building will only have one main entrance. While an open area in the back will be surrounded by a 16ft high security fence with anti-mesh on the top.

"The new building will be completely secure, so obviously what happened last November will not happen with this facility," said William May, the State Hospital Administrator.

Saito reportedly walked away from the state hospital with credit cards and a cellphone. At the new facility, visitors will be allowed supervised contact with patients after being scanned and their belongings searched.

The layout of the forensic hospital will also allow all patients outside of their rooms to be observed from a few central locations.

The state plans to add 50 more employees when the facility opens, not just nurses or additional security, but also housekeeping and maintenance.

"A new building with the best security measures all by itself, cannot ensure better patient safety and security. There must be a change in administrative processes and procedures," said Dept. of Health Director Dr. Virginia Pressler.

The Department of Health is looking at or has revised 17 different procedures or policies since Saito's escape. It has added many recommendations made by the Department of Public Safety, but is not monitoring patients by GPS.

"We're testing GPS units. It is not easy to get off the ground, because we don't have the infrastructure," added May.

And according to the experts, making patients feel like criminals hurts their rehabilitation.

"We are not building a correctional facility. It is a mental health facility that wants to provide quality care," stated Ige.

Psychiatric patients determined to no longer be a threat or an escape risk, would be moved out of the new facility to one of the other four buildings on the State Hospital grounds.

The Department of Health is still waiting for the Attorney General's office to finish its investigation of Saito's escape. Six hospital employees remain on leave until that report comes out.

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