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Rebuilt Moore Hospital Anxious To See If Patients Return Three Years After Tornado

The new Norman Regional Moore during the final stages of construction, March 2016.
Brian Hardzinski

Oklahoma saw its first taste of severe weather in 2016 earlier this week, and it’s the time of year when people start reflecting on past events and disasters.

The 2013 series of storms devastated the suburb of Moore, with two dozen deaths, the destruction of two elementary schools, and the leveling of the Moore Medical Center between Telephone Road and Interstate 35.

A little less than two months from now the new Norman Regional Health System facility is scheduled to open on that same site.

“One of the big problems the hospital found, even right after the storm is that people didn't think they would really rebuild there. They released renderings within 90 days, but it was still hard to convince people,” said The Journal Record’s managing editor Adam Brooks. The hospital system moved about 300 staff members to its main campus in Norman, as well as its newer HealthPlex.

The Norman Regional system told patients to follow their doctors, and there were no reported issues regarding treatment. But Norman Regional saw its emergency room visits drop by half, and it’s still not clear how many people left the system.

The Journal Record’s Sarah Terry-Cobo reports that’s similar to what happened in Joplin. The St. John’s Regional Medical Center (now Mercy Hospital Joplin) took a direct hit during the May 22, 2011 tornado that killed 158 people:

Mercy had medical tents within a week and temporary buildings within about three months. In April 2012, it moved into a semi-permanent modular building. Hunter’s facility was rebuilt about 2 miles away and opened for patients on March 22, 2015. Trying to maintain all the patients wasn’t easy and is mainly accomplished by Mercy’s reputation and with its physicians, she said. But inpatient market share dropped after the storm; inpatient volume for the Joplin region declined by 22 percent from 2009 to 2015. Some of the loss is attributable to a nationwide trend, in which more people receive outpatient care, Hunter said. Mercy Joplin hasn’t seen a decline in outpatient care, she said.

Brooks said Norman Regional has planned marketing and recruiting efforts to try to prevent a similar 3 percent loss of market share Joplin’s hospital saw when it opened last year.

Motorists on Peebly Road pass by a sign protesting the addition of a new turnpike through eastern Oklahoma County.
Credit Brent Fuchs / The Journal Record
The Journal Record
Motorists on Peebly Road pass by a sign protesting the addition of a new turnpike through eastern Oklahoma County.

Turnpike Tiff

Last year, Gov. Mary Fallin and state transportation officials announce a nearly $900 million plan to expand turnpikes around the state – both adding new roads, and improving amenities on existing highways.

One plan calls for extending the outer metro loop with a turnpike connecting Interstates 40 and 44 in far eastern Oklahoma County, near Choctaw, according to The Journal Record’s Dale Denwalt:

Engineers are plotting the highway’s course, which will likely take it between Luther Road and Triple X Road near Choctaw – and at least near Loveday’s home. Oklahoma Turnpike Authority spokesman Jack Damrill said the route may stray outside that 2-mile-wide corridor, but not for long. Once the path is finalized, the OTA will begin making offers to acquire rights of way. “This land is not for sale,” Loveday said. “I don’t care how many millions you want to give us; it’s worth more than that to just keep it in the family.” Damrill said the OTA will pursue eminent domain when it cannot reach a deal with landowners.

But other landowners are enthusiastic about the project. Old Germany restauranteur Mike Turek told Denwalt he thinks the idea will make that part of the metro prosper:

People have criticized his support for the project by noting his 40-year-old business is not in the way of the proposed route. “But if it (was) I would pack up all my stuff, take the money they were going to pay me, which is going to be above fair market value, and build another one,” Turek said. “In the end, it’s just a structure.” Turek said he thinks the roadway would help area businesses by increasing access, and spur growth. Turek said he understands people who oppose the turnpike and urged them to participate in a committee that will be a sounding board for landowners in the area during the planning stage.

The Business Intelligence Report is a collaborative news project between KGOU and The Journal Record.

As a community-supported news organization, KGOU relies on contributions from readers and listeners to fulfill its mission of public service to Oklahoma and beyond. Donate online, or by contacting our Membership department.

The Journal Record is a multi-faceted media company specializing in business, legislative and legal news. Print and online content is available via subscription.

Brian Hardzinski is from Flower Mound, Texas and a graduate of the University of Oklahoma. He began his career at KGOU as a student intern, joining KGOU full time in 2009 as Operations and Public Service Announcement Director. He began regularly hosting Morning Edition in 2014, and became the station's first Digital News Editor in 2015-16. Brian’s work at KGOU has been honored by Public Radio News Directors Incorporated (PRNDI), the Oklahoma Association of Broadcasters, the Oklahoma Associated Press Broadcasters, and local and regional chapters of the Society of Professional Journalists. Brian enjoys competing in triathlons, distance running, playing tennis, and entertaining his rambunctious Boston Terrier, Bucky.
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