STROUD, Okla. (AP) -- Twenty-two months after an F-4 tornado blew away this town's three largest employers, one is preparing to return.
Stroud Regional Medical Center will reopen March 1 with 42 employees, 25 beds and a full range of services, except for long-term care. The average stay will be less than 96 hours.
It will cost about $2.6 million to remodel the hospital, $200,000 of which the city will pay, hospital board Chairman Bill Sasser said Tuesday.
The facility had to get a critical access hospital designation to get more reimbursement from Medicare, Sasser said. The low federal reimbursement rate nearly left Stroud without a hospital.
Before the devastating tornado outbreak of May 3, 1999, Integris Health in Oklahoma City managed the Stroud hospital. Afterward, no health care provider wanted to partner with the Lincoln County community of 3,200.
The twister, one of a series of storms that killed 44 people and damaged or destroyed more than 8,000 homes and structures, ripped 60 percent of the roof off Stroud Regional Medical Center. Four inches of rain fell into the facility, soaking the walls and floors and ruining heating and air-conditioning units.
At least the hospital is coming back. The onwers of Tanger Outlet Mall, which employed 398 people and generated 66 percent of the city's sales tax revenues, decided not to reopen its 200,000 square foot facility. The Sygma Food processing plant moved its operations to Pryor.
Faced with choosing between having local medical care or driving 24 miles to Cushing to the nearest hospital, Stroud city leaders decided to get into the hospital business.
Leader convinced three local banks to each loan the city $200,000 for startup costs. The city's monthly payments will be about $7,200 a month for 10 years, Sasser said. The money will come from hospital revenues.
"We just couldn't do a sales tax because things are so cramped already," he said.
Since the hospital building is paid for, operating costs will be lower. The new Stroud Regional Medical Foundation is recruiting families who use the hospital, with the goal of getting at least 1,000 families to pay $25 a year to help buy hospital equipment, Sasser said.
Congress also has approved a $624,000 grant to build a doctor's clinic near the hospital. It should be open in about a year, Sasser said.
Ken Carpenter, vice chairman of the Stroud Industrial Authority, credited community pride with getting the hospital reopened.
"We just had to show everyone that we could do it ourselves. We did that, and it's first-class," Carpenter said.