By Joy Hampton
The Norman Transcript
NORMAN — Moore Medical Center is a total loss, Norman Regional Health System CEO David Whitaker said Tuesday. The Medical Center was destroyed by the EF-5 tornado that hit Moore on May 20. The community hospital ruins will be demolished. Whether it will be rebuilt remains in question.
“It’s not salvageable. We’re going to have to get what we can out of it and then it will be scraped off,” Whitaker said.
The Norman Regional Hospital Authority declared an emergency to allow hospital officials to waive bidding requirements for tornado recovery, salvage and demolition costs.
“We need to be able to move fairly quickly,” Whitaker said.
Despite the tragedy and loss, there have been miracles.
About 125 employees, 30 patients and more than 300 members of the community seeking shelter at the hospital survived without serious injury.
Chief nursing officer Nancy Brown arrived on the scene at Moore Medical shortly after the tornado hit.
“How many are in there dead?” was her first thought. She could not believe a woman in labor and 29 other patients survived without serious injuries.
“I’m very amazed at the staff,” said Dr. Darrin Smith, director of pharmacy services and performance improvement. Smith and his team surveyed the damage Tuesday morning at the Moore Medical Center.
Hospital officials have secured all of the medical center’s drugs, including narcotics kept in the central pharmacy. The drug inventory will be counted and disposed of in an appropriate manner.
Smith said unsecured drugs were an issue in Joplin.
Chief Financial Officer Ken Hopkins said NRHS is working with insurance providers and will explore other potential funding sources to recoup losses.
“At this point, it is too early to tell what the financial impact of last week’s deadly tornado will be to the Heath System,” Hopkins said.
Among its other services, the medical center specialized in cochlear implants. That will “likely be picked up at the HealthPlex,” said Kelly Wells, NRHS spokesperson.
An implant scheduled at the Medical Center was performed for a little girl at the HealthPlex in Norman after the implant was recovered from the Moore hospital’s remains.
NRHS staff is working to salvage anything that can be saved.
“One piece of equipment that has been recovered in working order is the new MRI machine,” Hopkins said.
NRHS is currently operating a general store for the 132 employees affected by the May 19 and 20 tornadoes. The store is open at the Porter Campus and all merchandise is free to qualifying employees.
“We’re doing everything we can to take care of them,” Whitaker said.
Approximately 132 people were treated with storm-related injuries at either Norman Regional Hospital or the HealthPlex. Not all were admitted, Wells said.
Four remain hospitalized.
“Cleveland County was extremely heavily impacted by tornadoes that come through on Sunday and Monday,” said County Commissioner Darry Stacy, who referenced Little Axe, Newalla and Pecan Valley in the east and Moore in the north portion of Cleveland County.
“It’s unreal. You get the full impact of it each and every day that you drive back into it,” Stacy said.
All three commissioners have worked in partnership with local, state and federal agencies, he said.
A recovery center has opened at Little Axe Elementary school where those affected by the tornadoes get help from a “multitude of different agencies,” Stacy said.
County and contracted crews will continue to pick up debris in the affected areas.
County Clerk Tammy Belinson said free certified copies of property records are available at her office to people affected by the tornadoes.
Undersheriff Rhett Burnett said an unknown volunteer showed up in a parking lot of a Moore retail store in the affected area and repaired first responder tires at no charge. Sheriff’s deputies were among the first on the scene in both east Cleveland County on Sunday and in Moore on Monday afternoon.
Several county and sheriff’s department employees lost homes.
Norman City Council members voted to send surplus traffic lights to Moore at Tuesday’s council meeting. Norman recently completed a capital project upgrading traffic control equipment at major intersections and are no longer using old equipment. The donation will help Moore address an immediate need for traffic control.
The city council also approved a resolution that will allow city crews to enter private roads and properties to assist in debris cleanup with the consent of property owners.
Additionally, the council approved a resolution to allow people to inhabit temporary dwellings for six months if their homes were severely damaged or destroyed by the recent tornadoes.
Temporary dwellings are limited to mobile homes, recreational vehicles, travel trailers and structures permanently affixed to the ground.