Holdenville to open hospital year after devastating fire

Saturday, June 14th 2003, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

HOLDENVILLE - This small east-central Oklahoma town lost its hospital in a devastating fire more than a year ago.

Now residents are gearing up for June 23, when a new Holdenville General Hospital sporting an $11.3 million renovation is scheduled to open.

``Literally, this is a new facility,'' said Walter Topp, the hospital's chief executive officer.

An electrical fire destroyed much of the hospital May 18, 2002. More than 50 firefighters fought the blaze, but flames and smoke damage contaminated almost the entire place.

The hospital spread its operations to three buildings in town and to its clinic in Allen. Communication between the sites was often done by cell phone.

In the last 13 months, some residents have had to drive to Seminole and Wetumka for full hospital care.

The hospital had to operate at a severely diminished capacity, meaning about 90 workers lost their jobs. Many of those workers are expected to be hired back.

In the next week, the hospital will get its finishing touches, including equipment, furniture and supplies.

The hospital will have several new features, including a cafeteria and a 3,000-square-foot addition. All of the equipment, heating and cooling systems, wiring and fire sprinkler systems are new.

Topp said the hospital, built 35 years ago, needed many of the changes anyway. But the price was always too steep.

Insurance paid for about $10 million of the recovery. The rest was financed by the hospital.

Hospital administrators say they hope to rehire everyone who was laid off when the hospital closed. Eighty-five of those people are coming back to resume work in Holdenville.

``That's a big deal for a town like this,'' Topp said.

Pat Palidar, a unit secretary and nurses aide, spent about three months out of work before finding a similar job in Seminole. She drove 20 miles to her job every day to work night shifts. Now she's returning to Holdenville General.

``I'm going back home,'' Palidar said.