KINGSTON, LUZERNE COUNTY (WBRE/WYOU) — New details emerged Monday in what is being described as a ‘riot’ at the First Hospital in Kingston on Saturday, as five people were injured including three juvenile patients and two staff members.

The Luzerne County District Attorney (D.A), Sam Sanguedolce says this was a very dangerous situation as it was unfolding and says police did a great job getting it under control, despite facing several challenges.

“We’re getting a report from 562 Wyoming Avenue the First Hospital, the youth wing for a riot in progress. 14 kids attacking the staff,” a 911 dispatcher said, call recovered via BROADCASTIFY

That was the first 911 dispatch Saturday evening that brought dozens of police and first responders to First Hospital in Kingston, a mental health facility for what was described by D.A. Sanguedolce as a riot.

On Monday Sanguedolce and Kingston Police released more details about the melee.

“The incident started at 7:17 with an altercation involving two individual patients at the hospital. At 8:00 it was reported full on large scale incident involving 14 juveniles who were inside the facility. The staff at that point has called in to indicate they had barricaded themselves at a nursing station,” stated Luzerne County District Attorney Sam Sanguedolce.

Sanguedolce says police faced challenges responding to the incident.

“Officers were also met with a great deal of difficulty as the public may know First Valley Hospital is a secure facility due to the nature of the work they perform there. The police had great difficulty gaining access to certain areas of the hospital. That is something Chief Kotchik and I intend to address with the administration to protect the safety of staff there and also to protect anyone entering for the purpose of emergency services,” Sanguedolce added.

Sanguedolce says the investigation is ongoing, taking into consideration why the juveniles are patients at First Hospital.

“We are mindful that the subjects of this investigation are in First Hospital for the purpose of obtaining mental treatment. So that is factoring into a large part of our investigation,” explained Sanguedolce.

A spokesperson for Commonwealth Health, which operates the facility, issued a statement about the incident Monday.

“We are reviewing Saturday’s incident and evaluating potential modifications for the future. The three patients and two employees received care and were medically discharged Saturday evening.
Maintaining a safe environment for our patients and provider team is our highest priority. The timely response of local first responders was tremendously helpful and we appreciate their support,” stated Annmarie Poslock, VP of Marketing and Communications for Commonwealth Health.

Late Monday afternoon, Commonwealth Health updated that statement by saying they are working with D.A. Sanguedolce as they review the situation. Sanguedolce also says there was not enough security at First Hospital, something he says he will be addressing with Commonwealth Health.

Also on Monday, the President of the Union that represents staff at First Hospital, the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) released a statement expressing concerns about security and staffing issues at the facility.

I’m horrified and deeply saddened to learn that once again frontline caregivers have been the victims of violence in their workplace. Healthcare workers put themselves at great risk every day when they come to work to care for others. 

This latest incident only further highlights the staffing crisis we are facing in the healthcare industry — a crisis that becomes especially dangerous in challenging settings like First Hospital. We’re planning to work with hospital management to address the issues at this facility but we will continue to fight for safe staffing in every healthcare setting through all avenues  — be it legislation, much-needed state and federal funding, or our union contracts. Keeping healthcare workers and the communities we serve safe is our highest priority.”

Matthew Yarnell, SEIU Healthcare Pennsylvania President

Also, Eyewitness News would like to point out that charges have not been filed in the case.