EDMOND — A Cushing emergency room doctor wanted to come home, so he signed on to work for a year in a 4,200-square-foot modular building in Edmond before moving into a new $88 million medical complex and wellness center.
Edmond Memorial High School graduate Dr. David Johnson started practicing family medicine in the no-frills office while the 206,000-square-foot Mercy Edmond I-35 was being built just up the road.
A May 19 tornado delayed the plans of Johnson and about 200 doctors, nurses and other employees waiting to start work in the new complex. Construction was six weeks short of completion when the three-story building took a direct hit by the tornado.
Mercy Edmond I-35 is now expected to open late in the summer of 2014.
“At times, it is cramped and tight,” Johnson, 33, said of his current working situation. “We know it is temporary.”
Before the tornado hit, the employees, including about 30 doctors, had expected to go to work in the new Edmond hospital Monday. Jobs have been found for them at other Mercy facilities in the metro area.
Nick Niver, Mercy Edmond I-35 administrator, said Mercy officials assured the employees their jobs were safe during the rebuilding process.
“We have hired some very talented people,” Niver said. “We're doing everything we can to make this recovery go as smoothly as possible for our future patients, members and co-workers. Everyone was open and flexible.”
Mercy officials in Oklahoma said they have relied on the experiences of their co-workers in Joplin, Mo., where a May 2011 tornado destroyed St. John's Regional Medical Center. Four people were killed.
A new hospital — to be called St. John's Mercy Hospital is being rebuilt in Joplin.
The Edmond tornado left extensive damage throughout the Mercy Edmond I-35 building just south of 15th Street and Interstate 35. The roof, heating and air-conditioning equipment, windows, entrance facades, walls, ceilings and floors were damaged by the Sunday afternoon storm.
Mercy officials first thought the opening would be delayed six months. After six weeks of accessing the damage, the completion deadline was moved back.
No dollar damage estimate is available.
On Tuesday, workers were removing bricks from the front of the building to determine if the bricks withstood the strong winds.
“We have had structural and mechanical engineers taking a hard look,” Niver said. “It is kind of like peeling back an onion.”
The entire roof will have to be replaced. Some medical equipment was destroyed, but most of the high-dollar equipment had not been delivered at the time of the tornado, Niver said.
“We're disappointed about this delay in opening,” Niver said. “But we need to remember how lucky we are that no one was on site when the tornado struck. Despite the delay, we feel really fortunate about that.”