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News / Clark County News

Legacy Salmon Creek takes special steps after a Friday night protest

By Scott Hewitt, Columbian staff writer
Published: January 30, 2021, 5:40pm

Legacy Salmon Creek Medical Center went into lockdown Friday night and remained in “partial lockdown” on Saturday, a spokeswoman said, after protesters gathered outside the building — some of them armed — because they thought a patient inside, who had refused a COVID-19 test, was being held against her will.

Twenty-two deputies were called to the scene and all entrances to the building were secured, according to a statement from the Clark County Sheriff’s Office. No arrests were made but one man was pepper-sprayed by a deputy during pushing and shoving at the hospital entrance Friday night.

No protesters were onsite Saturday afternoon, according to public relations officer Vicki Guinn, but the hospital’s front doors remained locked as staff monitored the situation. It’s unclear how long the partial lockdown will last.

“During the day our front doors are locked,” Guinn said. “The door people can access is through the emergency department.” That’s no different than normal after-hours access, she said. 

“We’re just monitoring, for the safety of our staff and our patients,” she said. “We’re at ‘silver level,’ the first level of caution. People who need to seek care should come in through the emergency department.”

Crowd gathers

According to a statement issued by the Sheriff’s Office late Saturday afternoon, a caller to 911 requested a deputy at Legacy Salmon Creek Medical Center at around 4:50 p.m. Friday. The caller reported that her mother, who had been admitted the previous day for medical reasons, was being held against her will. The caller claimed Medical Power of Attorney but was being prevented from being allowed in to see her mother.

No names were included in the Sheriff’s Office statement, it said, because of rules governing medical privacy. The woman’s daughter was not identified either.

Because the patient refused to submit to a COVID-19 test upon admittance to the hospital, she was placed in 24-hour quarantine while receiving medical treatment, according to the Sheriff’s Office statement. The daughter demanded to see her but refused to wear a face mask, and was denied entry, according to hospital personnel.

A deputy arrived, spoke with the patient and determined that she was able to make her own decisions, according to the Sheriff’s Office statement. She told the deputy she wished to remain in the hospital for treatment.

Meanwhile, an estimated 15 to 20 people began arriving at the hospital’s emergency department, apparently at the request of the daughter, demanding the patient’s release. A friend of the daughter’s had streamed an online request for “all hands on deck” to come to the hospital and demand the patient’s release.

Videos show a woman who identified herself as the patient’s daughter standing at the door without a mask, yelling at officers and demanding to be allowed inside.

Due to the number of people congregating at the Emergency Department entrance, Legacy security personnel requested more assistance from the sheriff’s office. As the crowd was shouting and making demands, the hospital went into lockdown.

Additional Sheriff’s Office units were called to the scene to secure other entrances to the building. In all, 22 deputies were on the scene.

“The main focus of … law enforcement was to prevent an onrush of persons entering the hospital and to ensure the safety of patients and staff,” the sheriff’s office statement said.

Several of the protesters were carrying firearms and gas masks, the statement said.

No arrests

At nearly 8 p.m., the on-scene sergeant was notified that the patient wished to leave the hospital, and preparations were being made to discharge her.

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“At one point during the confrontation, a number of persons affiliated with the daughter attempted to force their way into the hospital when the doors were opened to admit an unrelated person needing medical treatment,” the statement said. “These persons were physically pushed by deputies back out into the portico.

“One unidentified male who tried again to force the doors open and assault a deputy … was advised to leave or he would be sprayed with pepper spray. The male refused and was sprayed in the face by the deputy.”

No arrests were made, and the patient was released from the hospital at approximately 8:40 p.m. The patient was transported home by family and the crowd dispersed, the statement said.

Some of the demonstrators identified themselves as members of a “People’s Rights” group founded by Ammon Bundy, one of the men who led the armed occupation of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge in Oregon in 2016. A video of the protest attracted thousands of views, in part because it was posted on Bundy’s YouTube channel.

OregonLive contributed to this report.