On Tuesday, January 9, McCurtain Memorial Hospital experienced a significant disruption in operations as the result of a power outage that began at approximately 5:30 AM.
Early Tuesday morning, Chief Operating Officer Lane Manginell arrived at the hospital shortly after 5:00 AM and soon after, a power outage occurred. Mr. Manginell immediately placed the hospital on stroke divert as the power outage immediately resulted in imaging (radiology) failure. Once McCurtain County EMS was notified of the divert, Mr. Manginell notified the hospital’s Facilities and Plant Operations Director, David Caudle.
Following several attempts to troubleshoot potential causes for the failure, American Electrical Power / PSO was contacted, and a technician was dispatched to the hospital. The hospital has a large generator that can power the hospitals critical infrastructure and immediately following the outage, that system came online.
AEP/PSO arrived at the hospital shortly after 8:00 AM and it was determined initially that the outage was caused at the pole. Repairs were anticipated to take one hour and once made, power was restored. Within seconds of power being restored, the power went off again.
Through additional investigation and a thorough look at the hospitals entire electrical system, making rounds on each floor of the hospital, an obvious “odor” was coming from all three floors’ electrical rooms. Further investigation found that a piece of metal shrapnel had fallen from an unidentifiable area within the large electrical panels, causing a short. The metal piece caused significant damage to one of the high voltage breakers within the panel and repairs had to be made. Mr. Caudle called former hospital employee and electrician, Scott Smith, to the hospital for a look and he confirmed the issue.
The hospitals CEO, Brian Whitfield, assembled an Incident Command team and held a briefing within the North Tower conference room that included all hospital leadership and department managers. Each hour, all department heads reported to the Incident Command team any impacts the power outage had on operations or potential patient safety concerns. At all times during the incident, services within the hospital continued, including outpatient services, and at no time were any patients or staff at risk of harm.
The hospitals electrical systems were installed decades ago. Fortunately, the company that installed the systems was in Texarkana, Texas and had the original schematics of the design of the system and was dispatched to the hospital. Repairs were made within minutes of the electrical engineers’ arrival and the hospital was back fully reliant upon incoming power and as designed, the generator turned off.
This morning, hospital CEO Brian Whitfield had this to say about the incident:“David Caudle and his vast skills and knowledge of this hospitals infrastructure cannot be understated. David knows this hospital inside and out and is the guy you want on the ground when something like this occurs.” Whitfield said. He went on to state, “And, despite a change in career from the hospital to a new job, we cannot forget that willingness of our friend and former colleague, Scott Smith, to drop what he was doing with his new employer, and return to the hospital on a moment’s notice and help.”
The hospital, more than fifty years old, still has in place original electrical, plumbing and HVAC systems that routinely cause issues. The hospital has become accustomed to responding to outages, water leaks and down time with HVAC systems over the years. The hospital campaigned in the Fall of 2022 for a 2% lodging tax to fund the building of a new hospital which was approved by voters overwhelmingly. Two months later, incorporators of the newly formed town of Hochatown filed a lawsuit to stop the collection of that 2% tax and the matter has spent the last year being litigated in the district court of McCurtain County and the Oklahoma Supreme Court.
“It is unfortunate that two or three people in a county of over 30,000 residents can rob an entire county of an opportunity at a new hospital and access to health care,” Whitfield said, “but this has become our reality. It continues to amaze me that one woman who will say she is ‘for the hospital’ stands in such opposition of the very institution responsible for saving lives in this community.” he said.
Whitfield and his team at the hospital have begun the early stages of developing a council to look at alternative funding to either start construction of a new hospital or to make necessary repairs to the existing building. The hospital solicited the involvement of the County Commissioners, Hospital Authority Board, and the City mayor.
On Wednesday morning, Whitfield stood before the hospital's leadership and department managers and thanked the numerous hospital employees who assisted during the outage of Tuesday. Among those were the hospital's Chief Nursing Officer, Dustin Leonard; the Director of Information and Technology, Virgil Owen; Med-Room manager, Scout Dorsey; Emergency Department manager, Pamela Jackson; MedSurg Director, Nicole Pollard; Obstetrics Unit manager, Tina Gooding; Environmental Services director, Stan Lyles; Business Office directors, Cole Jackson and Jack Peterson; and a number of other key contributors to effectively addressing the power outage.