By Joy Hampton
The Norman Transcript
NORMAN — Following the May 20 tornado, the Moore Medical Center was a gaping wound of a building with windows blown out and missing walls.
Chief nursing officer Nancy Brown described her feelings to Health System board members when she arrived on the scene at Moore Medical shortly after the tornado hit.
“How many are in there dead?” she said was her first thought. She could not believe a mother giving birth and all other patients survived without serious injuries.
The Norman Regional Health System is one of the largest employers in Cleveland County, providing jobs for more than 2,700 people.
Hospital officials estimate that at least 289 NRHS employees’ jobs were affected by the May 19, 20 and 31 storms, while nearly 100 other employees needed assistance ranging from food, shelter, and clothing to assistance with transportation due to loss or damage to vehicles.
All vehicles parked at Moore Medical were destroyed on May 20. Just over a month after that tornado, MMC was demolished.
“It’s not salvageable. We’re going to have to get what we can out of it and then it will be scraped off,” Norman Regional Health System CEO David Whitaker reported at the May board meeting.
Hospital officials say it will take three years to rebuild a new version of Moore Medical. An assessment will determine the community’s needs for the future design.
In the meantime, a temporary medical facility will serve Moore. Health System officials have filed insurance claims to offset the cost of replacing the Moore facility. Numbers anticipated from the insurance reimbursement have not been officially confirmed.
“A tornado safe area for patients and staff will be included in the temporary facility,” said Kelly Wells, NRHS spokesperson.
Unlike Moore Medical, that tornado safe area will not have space for members of the public, but those people who are on site will have someplace safe to take shelter, she said.
The temporary facility will also include emergency services and ancillary services including x-ray and labs.
Hospital authorities are weighing proposals for portable buildings from three companies and are expected make a decision next week. Following the bid award, it will take 60 to 90 days for the temporary facility to become operational, Wells said.
NRHS doctors associated with Moore Medical were quickly relocated to offices in Norman and south Oklahoma City. As Moore rebuilds, those doctors could be relocated back to Moore, Wells said.
When the tornado hit, there were approximately 100 employees, 30 or more patients and 300 community members seeking shelter at MMC. The courageous actions of hospital staff were remembered during a special ceremony prior to the medical center’s demolition.
“You saved the lives of about 40 patients,” Whitaker said at the ceremony. “You saved each other’s lives as staff members and colleagues and then the 300 community members who sought shelter at our Moore Medical Center. To not lose anyone is miraculous.”
Moore Medical Center was a 45-bed facility that provided general medical and surgical needs, physical therapy, obstetrical services, 24-hour emergency services and diagnostic imaging. A specialty service, cochlear implants, was also provided through Moore Medical.
Services previously provided at MMC are being handled at other NRHS facilities.
Norman Regional Health System is a multi-campus system operated by the Norman Regional Hospital Authority, a public trust. Facilities include Norman Regional Hospital and the HealthPlex. Norman Regional’s Porter Avenue Campus is licensed for 324 beds and offers a full range of services. The HealthPlex at Interstate 35 and Tecumseh Road is licensed for 136 beds and features cardiovascular services, spine and orthopedic surgery, and women’s and children’s services.
NRHS also provides outpatient diagnostic centers, medical transport services, physician services, centers of excellence, durable medical equipment supplies, a primary care network, community wellness service and employer health services.
City leaders in Moore are adamant that the community needs a hospital. At Moore Medical’s remembrance ceremony, City Manager Steve Eddy echoed sentiments voiced at city hall by council members since the tornado destroyed MMC.
“It took a lot of years to get the hospital here,” Eddy said. “Norman came in and rescued it when it was having some difficulties. A hospital is such an important part of a community in terms of service that is provided and just community life, really. It is sad to see what’s happened to it, but it also means new life and new things. That’s true with everything in town here. It’s sad, sad, sad to see but out of it will come new and better and bigger. We’ve done that two times now with storms in the past, and it gets better every time.”