Oklahoma hospital placed on lockdown as precaution for protests

McCurtain Memorial Hospital in Idabel, Okla., was placed on lockdown starting at 7 a.m. April 17 at the direction of its CEO, Brian Whitfield, according to a news release on the hospital's Facebook page.

The lockdown comes after media coverage about recordings obtained by a McCurtain County reporter, Chris Willingham, that allegedly capture county leaders discussing killing Mr. Willingham and making racist statements, The Oklahoman reported. 

"We, like many of you, became aware of local media coverage that made public comments that were allegedly made by members of our county government," Mr. Whitfield said in the release. "We have been advised that locals and persons from outside the area intend to hold a peaceful protest in response. 

"I have spoken to Idabel Mayor Craig Young. Mayor Young has assured me that he has faith in Idabel residents that they will be calm and still have their voices heard."

The protests took place during an emergency meeting among officials at the McCurtain County Commissioners Office in Idabel, NBC affiliate KFOR reported April 17.

The accusations against leaders, including the sheriff of McCurtain County, one of his investigators and a county commissioner, were published in the McCurtain Gazette-News. According to The Oklahoman, the McCurtain Gazette-News reported it has a recording of a discussion that included Sheriff Kevin Clardy, investigator Alicia Manning and District 2 Commissioner Mark Jennings. The discussion reportedly took place March 6 after a meeting of the county board of commissioners.

The Oklahoman could not identify the speakers in the recordings, and none of the allegedly recorded individuals could immediately be reached by the newspaper for comment. On the day of the alleged discussion, Mr. Willingham, a reporter for the McCurtain Gazette-News, had filed a defamation lawsuit against county leaders, the McCurtain Gazette-News reported, according to The Oklahoman. Mr. Willingham declined to comment to The Oklahoman, citing ongoing litigation between himself and the sheriff's office. Oklahoma Gov. Kevin Stitt has spoken out against the alleged recordings and said his office will be calling on the Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigations to initiate an investigation, according to KFOR.

Mr. Whitfield, with McCurtain Memorial, said he is ordering the lockdown "to ensure that we are able to respond, if needed, to the medical needs of our patients and the community."

The lockdown closes all hospital entrances except the emergency room public entrance, according to the hospital. Only individuals seeking medical treatment will be allowed to enter. Children younger than 18 may enter with one guardian, the hospital said. McCurtain Memorial has canceled outpatient services for April 17.

"We are committed to meeting the healthcare needs of our community and sufficient staff will be on duty as well as additional staff available. We will stay in communication with our city officials, including the mayor's office." Mr. Whitfield said in the release.

The hospital said more information will be released as needed and once the lockdown lifts.

Note: This story was updated at 12:45 p.m. CDT April 17.

Copyright © 2024 Becker's Healthcare. All Rights Reserved. Privacy Policy. Cookie Policy. Linking and Reprinting Policy.


Featured Whitepapers

Featured Webinars