Challenges don't stop Mercy Edmond I-35's plans
EDMOND — The future of health care may be uncertain, but Mercy Health System officials promise to continue to plan for the years to come so people's needs in Edmond and elsewhere are addressed.
"We don't know the future of health care reform," said Ryan Bader, Mercy Health System director of planning, design and construction. "We will continue to rally around the community to meet its needs."
Planning for the future isn't something new for Mercy Health System.
A look into the future resulted in the creation of Mercy Edmond I-35, a 206,000-square-foot wellness center. Construction began a half mile south of 15th Street on the west side of Interstate 35 on July 5, 2011.
The $88 million medical complex is not a hospital. It is the first of its kind for Mercy.
There are outpatient operating rooms, clinical space for doctors and a wellness center with an indoor jogging track and three pools for swimming laps and exercising for therapy sessions.
The pools sit near large windows so swimmers can look outside at a wooded area with large trees.
Outpatient surgery has five operating rooms, two procedure rooms and a room for pain management. General, orthopedic, gynecological, pain management, gastrointestinal and other surgical procedures are available there.
Doctors send their patients to the wellness center, and people in the community can buy memberships to the fitness center, heated rehabilitation and fitness pools.
The new center was just six weeks short of completion when the three-story building took a direct hit from a May 19, 2013, tornado. The long-anticipated opening was delayed for a year.
The Edmond tornado left extensive damage throughout the building. The roof, heating and air-conditioning equipment, windows, entrance facades, walls, ceilings and floors were damaged in the storm.
"Those were long days and sleepless nights," Bader said. "It was fortunate that no workers were there.
"We were getting ready to move in some very expensive medical equipment. It was good it wasn't there."
Repairs were made, and the building opened where 244 doctors, nurses and other people now work.
Since its opening, Bader said, they had tried to increase their specialty clinics.
"There is no new square footage," Bader said. "There have been some renovations and build out on areas we already had.
"That is good news for Edmond."
'Mercy will be there'
The latest hurdle for the I-35 center came in January when the city council denied amending the city's land use plan to allow for a free-standing emergency room.
The $15 million emergency department was to be built on 5.02 acres on the south side of Mercy Edmond I-35.
Three of the five council members voted against the amendment after nearby homeowners complained about additional noise they anticipated would be coming from the proposed one-store building with eight examination rooms and trauma room, which would have been open 24 hours a day.
The project would require the removal of nearly three acres of trees for the 13,600-square-foot building.
Bader called the council's decision surprising.
"We had worked closely with the neighbors to address their concerns," Bader said.
Bader isn't sure what will happen next on that 5.02 acres of land.
"I am not sure what's the game plan," Bader said. "We still have the plans. We are not sure what will happen there. I look for there to be plans for Edmond.
"I know there will be continued needs, and Mercy will be there to meet those needs."