Armed patients: Gun scare at Hawaii hospital highlights disturbing trend

A patient armed with a ghost gun was arrested at Straub Medical Center after sources say staff discovered the firearm along with a high capacity magazine hidden
Published: Mar. 27, 2023 at 5:52 PM HST|Updated: Mar. 28, 2023 at 1:20 PM HST
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HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - A patient armed with a ghost gun was arrested at Straub Medical Center after sources say staff discovered the firearm along with a high capacity magazine hidden in the man’s backpack.

Thursday’s gun scare isn’t an isolated incident.

The head of Hawaii’s nurses union says it’s part of a disturbing trend where patients are being caught with weapons inside Oahu hospitals.

Nurses say guns, knives and machetes are just some of the weapons that have been recently confiscated. It’s a widespread problem that has many frontline caregivers fearing for their safety.

“It’s not an everyday thing. But it’s not an uncommon thing either,” said Daniel Ross. “There was an incident at Queen’s a few months back where the staff actually had to wrestle a loaded handgun out of a patient’s hands.”

The head of Hawaii’s Nurses Union also provided HNN with a photograph that shows a knife that was discovered in a separate incident.

“He (the patient) had sliced the mattress to hide the knife in there,” Ross said. “You can see the handle sticking out. So he could grab it quickly.”

One of the most recent scares happened Thursday at Straub Medical Center.

Sources tell us a patient who’d been admitted to the hospital at least a week became irate with staff and stormed out.

Inside a backpack he’d left behind, hospital staff discovered what sources say was a ghost gun along with a high capacity magazine.

HPD confirms the 34-year-old felon was arrested when he returned looking for the bag. At last check, the suspect was still in jail being held on warrants.

HNN sent a list of questions to officials at Straub specifically asking what protocols are in place to prevent weapons from getting inside the facility.

A spokesperson declined to answer saying in a statement, “Due to the ongoing investigation by HPD, we will reserve comment at this time.”

A source inside Straub says it’s at least the fifth incident involving a deadly weapon at the facility in the past year.

Ross said, “There’s way too much violence against healthcare workers. There shouldn’t be any.”

He says overall, Hawaii’s hospitals need to do more to keep weapons out — things like installing metal detectors and conducting bag checks. He also wants facilities to consider hiring off-duty police officers for security.

Ross says he dreads the thought of getting a phone call that someone’s been hurt or worse.

“It’s inevitable that’s going to happen one day,” he said. “It’s happened in the mainland. We’ve had shootings and even mass shootings in hospitals, healthcare workers killed.”

The hospitals HNN talked to wouldn’t provide any official numbers about how often weapons are found.

The union says employees aren’t notified either.

Queen’s is the largest hospital system in the state. We asked what its facilities do to keep weapons out.

A spokesperson sent us this 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 system wide, 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.”