After a monstrous tornado roared through Moore, Okla., chewing up and spitting out everything in its path, hospitalist Joe R. Womble, MD, who was off that day, wondered what had become of his colleagues, his patients, and his hospital, Moore Medical Center.
The initial news was encouraging: Everyone who had been inside the hospital—roughly 200 to 300 people, including a few dozen patients—had survived. He thought that boded well for the hospital as well.
“When I was getting information back from people who were there and I was hearing that everyone was fine, all the patients and staff, and no one got injured, I was thinking that either the hospital was missed by the storm, or that it must not have really damaged it very significantly,” says Dr. Womble. “And then they started showing aerial shots [on TV] and I was just shocked. My jaw was just dropped. The main entrance that I would go in every day was literally stacked three or four cars deep with … about 30 cars.” Likewise, the storm ripped through patient rooms on the second floor, obliterating some and reducing others to their steel innards.
About a week after the storm, word came back that Moore Medical Center will have to be demolished.
“Nobody knows what will happen next, but a lot of us speculate that they will not rebuild an inpatient facility,” says Dr. Womble. “It’s the only hospital in that city of Moore, and it’s just me and my partner to take care of virtually everyone that comes in with any kind of medical problem.
“And so I definitely feel a tie to the community. … Now that it’s gone, it’s just hard to put into words,” he says. “I would just say devastating, I guess.”