Norman Regional Health System (NRHS) is weighing how to replace Moore Medical Center, which was severely damaged by the May 20 tornado that devastated Moore, Okla., killing 24 and injuring an estimated 350. No one at the hospital was seriously injured.

After the medical center was deemed a "total loss" by insurance adjusters and structural engineers, health care system leaders decided to demolish the facility, says Melissa Herron, public relations specialist, NRHS.

CEO David Whitaker says the Norman Regional Authority Board, NRHS leadership and other officials will take three to six months to decide what level of services a new hospital or medical center would offer.

For now, NRHS officials have started assessing the short-term needs of the Moore community, Whitaker says.

"We are looking at how best to meet the urgent care and emergency needs there. This may involve a temporary mobile-type setting staffed by NRHS employees, more specifically the staff from Moore Medical Center," he says.

The first phase of the health care system's three-stage relief plan began moments after the tornado hit and is ongoing, Whitaker says. "Our goal was to make sure all patients and staff in that building were accounted for and taken care of, both medically and personally. Many employees lost homes, vehicles or both on May 20," he says.

The health system, with the help of the Norman Regional Health Foundation and the employee CARE Committee, began providing relief for staff. Securing the hospital, recovering what was salvageable inside and relocating the physicians that were housed at Moore Medical Center were other top priorities.

Before the tornado hit, the medical center was alerted to the incoming storm and put its emergency preparedness plan into action. "Our staff moved patients, visitors and community members to the cafeteria at Moore Medical Center. It is an interior, windowless room," Herron says.

Miraculously, there were no serious injuries among the 40 patients, 175 staff and approximately 300 visitors and local residents who took refuge there from the storm.

Patients were evacuated to two nearby hospitals that were not damaged by the tornado and storm, Herron says.