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    McCurtain Memorial Hospital closes Hochatown clinic amid controversy

    By Christa Swanson,


    HOCHATOWN, Okla. ( KTAL/KSHV ) – At the end of April, officials announced the closure of the Hochatown Rural Health Clinic due to traffic concerns and hospital maintenance costs.

    McCurtain Memorial Hospital CEO Brian Whitfield said in a now deleted Facebook post that local residents avoid the clinic, which is primarily used by tourists, due to traffic congestion. He explained that the residents have preferred treatment at the Valliant RHC and Idabel RHC for several years now.

    “The Hochatown clinic was opened 7 days a week at one time, then reduced to 5 days a week, and despite more days and longer hours, locals did not use the clinic,” Whitfield explained.

    However, Hochatown Mayor Dian Jordan said that’s not the case.

    “There are no other health care facilities in the community. Many locals used the facility, as did other county residents.”

    Hochatown has a population of 242 people, but around 30,000 tourists visit the area over the weekends.

    After consulting with hospital and clinic employees, Whitfield said they collectively decided to close the clinic as of April 28.

    Jordan said the town wasn’t notified and learned of the closure when the MMC announced it in the deleted Facebook post .

    “The sudden closure stunned the community. I’ve already contacted other health care providers to see what arrangements can be made to provide health care services to the community.”

    Whitfield said another reason for the closure is that repairs to the hospital’s aging infrastructure cost hundreds of thousands of dollars. They felt that the funds used to keep the Hochatown Rural Health Clinic open would be better used elsewhere.

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    He accused the town’s leadership of fighting against a tax that would help.

    “More than 65% of voters approved a 2% lodging tax that would have built a new hospital in 2022,” said Whitfield.

    He also said that the town hired a man from Dallas to fight the tax, stating the lawsuit has cost the hospital, McCurtain County, and Hochatown more than $1 million.

    “The mayor speaks from both sides of her mouth when, in public, she’s for the hospital, yet in private, seeks to lure folks to put their name on frivolous lawsuits which, in this case, damages healthcare for 30,000 residents in southeastern Oklahoma.” Whitfield continued.

    The lodging tax increase passed at a special election held in McCurtain County on Nov. 8, 2022, but there’s contention over whether the tax will apply to Hochatown.

    A release from the town said the hospital and McCurtain County Commissioners asked the McCurtain County District Court for a declaration on what it means to “levy” a tax in regards to the Oklahoma law governing lodging tax.

    It states an injunction was entered in a previous case that stopped the county lodging tax from going into effect until April 1, 2023. Hochatown passed its own municipal lodging tax while the litigation was still pending, which went into effect on May 1, 2023.

    “The Hospital and the Commissioners have asked the Court to interpret the law to determine whether the County or Hochatown “levied” its lodging tax first.

    Hochatown has filed its response and further asserts that because Hochatown has now levied its own municipal lodging tax, all county lodging tax is now inapplicable to public lodging within the town limits of Hochatown.

    It will be left to the Court to determine the meaning of the law and issue an opinion declaring how the county lodging tax statute should be interpreted and applied,” Hochatown officials explained.

    The hospital said it will soon open a new clinic in DeQueen to provide women’s and children’s services and a surgery clinic.

    “Both clinics will drive delivery of new babies to MMH as well as surgical procedures. Soon, the Idabel clinic will operate 7 days a week.”

    All practitioners, nurses, and support staff will reportedly be reassigned to the Idabel clinic. Moving trucks were seen outside of the Hochatown clinic the day after it closed loading up furnishings and supplies for transport.

    Officials said the clinic in Valliant will be open five days a week for 10 hours a day. The hospital said it would keep the same providers and encouraged residents to use the other clinics.

    Copyright 2024 Nexstar Media Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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