McCurtain Memorial Hospital CEO Brian Whitfield released a statement on social media on Thursday after a bomb hoax was called in to the facility.
The bomb threat call came into the hospital at 1:25 p.m. Thursday and Idabel police responded at 1:27 p.m, a report said.
No device was found.
MMH had endured a similar incident the previous week.
“This is the second bomb threat called (in) to MMH in the last two weeks,” Whitfield said. “The previous bomb threat was much the same, threatening to detonate a bomb placed in the hospital the night before. That threat, too, resulted in a large presence of law enforcement and an evacuation of at least two critical patients.”
“Today’s evacuation could have ended poorly for at least some of our patients and I share this details in hopes that whomever is behind these calls will consider the impact that this attempt to cause panic has had on real people’s lives,” Whitfield continued.
He noted that the hospital had a patient experiencing an “end of life” situation and had been joined by the family. This visit was continuing when the threat was called in, Whitfield said.
“The family, already devastated at their impending loss, had to leave,” he described. “We also had to move this particular patients who should have been left alone and allowed to rest in peace.”
“Additionally, while returning patients to the hospital, after the all-clear today, another patient presented at an unstaffed, unprepared emergency room with a potential cardiac arrest,” he said. “Fortunately, because of the rapid response to the hospital ER by medical staff, we were able to meet this patient’s needs and avoid a potentially bad outcome.”
“I do not share these details for sympathy for the hospital or for any other reason but to tell you that making calls of this nature to a healthcare facility can cost people their lives,” he said.
Whitfield noted that MMH is a small, rural hospital with limited resources. Disruptions in service can have a significant impact on the hospital financially, and can result in outpatient servies like lab work, radiology and therapy being unavailable. He said that the hospital will “rise above” those challenges, but again urged whoever might be making the calls to “consider the impact on our patients and this community.”
He commented that on the day of the bomb threat, a “local blogger who seemed to completely disregard patient and staff safety” posted the location where hospital patients had been evacuated to.
“This is disturbing and selfish,” he said. “You should be ashamed as your actions could have placed multiple people in danger.”
“Our staff and patients are most vulnerable when moved outside of the hospital and for you to post such sensitive information, just because you have little more to do than sit and listen to radio traffic, then post information to social media for your three minutes of fame, is, quite frankly, selfish,” Whitfield said. “The area is limited on where we could relocate patients in such a situation and we are now forced to change locations and will for (any) future events.”
Whitfield said the hospital is taking multiple steps to tighten overall security at the facility.
These include a hard lockdown at the hospital that will remain in effect until further notice. Whitfield said that a metal detector had been installed at the emergency room entrance, which all employees and visitors must enter and exist through.
- No bags, purses, backpacks or other carrying cases are allowed inside the hospital.
- All outpatient services will continue, he said, but only the patient seeking the services may enter the hospital. Patients will be escorted out of the hospital and loitering will not be permitted.
- Visitation will be restricted to two visitors, per patient, per day. Vistors are subject to the above listed restrictions.
- The hospital cafe will be open to the public, but visitors are again subject to all the above restrictions. No “knives, guns, metal devices, bags, purses or backpacks” will be allowed in the café, and those eating there must “enjoy their meal and leave thereafter.”
- Patients coming to the ER for treatment must come into the hospital alone unless they are under the age of 18. Patients under 18 must be accompanied by one adult. Whitfield said there would be “no exceptions” to this policy unless approved by hospital administration and an “end of life situation is possible.”
Whitfield said that response to the situation from local law enforcement and other agencies was swift and effective, and noted that McCurtain County EMS notified that would would assist with the hospital evacuation “within seconds” of it being announced.
He added that the hospital would push for “very aggressive prosecution” of anyone determined to be involved in the bomb threat.
To read Whitfield’s statement in its entirety, visit the McCurtain Memorial Hospital Facebook site.