Jun. 3—Norman's health care and city leaders on Thursday officially kicked off a massive expansion project that will bring accessible health care to southeast Norman and will add to the care services Norman Regional Health System offers locally.
Leadership broke ground on NRHS' new freestanding Emergency Department, christened Norman Regional Nine, which will offer healthcare resources — including primary and specialty care access and diagnostic imaging services — to residents who live beyond core Norman.
While recent damp and rainy weather kept NRHS from breaking ground on Norman Regional Nine's official build site at the southwest corner of Highway 9 and 24th Avenue SE, city and hospital leadership instead pushed shovels into boxes of multi-colored sand just across the street. NRHS hopes to have a ribbon cutting for the new facility about 24 months after Thursday's groundbreaking.
"Our vision for the future is transformative, it's innovative and it will provide easier access for care to our patients, and it will also be a dependable and reliable point of care for all of us in Norman and in south-central Oklahoma," said Richie Splitt, NRHS president and CEO Richie Splitt.
The Highway 9 facility is one of several expansion and improvement projects NRHS will begin this year through its Inspire Health initiative. In mid-July, NRHS plans to break ground on its Healthplex expansion, which will add an ambulatory care center, cancer center and new bed tower to the West Tecumseh Road Healthplex facility.
NRHS is also planning a transformation of its Porter Avenue campus. The nearly 75-year-old campus will become the Porter Health Village, a facility that will host a new freestanding Behavioral Health Center and Norman Forward's Senior Wellness Center, among other things.
Dr. Ken Watson, a primary care provider with Norman Regional who currently works out of Noble, said Thursday the new Norman Regional Nine facility will be an essential and strategic addition to the city's healthcare landscape.
Watson will have an office in the new facility, which he said will make primary care doctor and regular care access easier for many patients.
"Continuity of care will improve, convenience and, along with that, it will get the patients to the point where they can get more complete care not only for urgent kinds of things, but wellness," Watson said.
With continuing residential expansion in southeast Norman, the already-existing need for health care infrastructure continues to grow, too, Watson said. The new emergency department will be located just over five miles from NRHS's Porter campus, and 10 miles from the HealthPlex.
"Not only are there a number of people down here already, but they are building hundreds of homes, and it won't be long before even this facility will probably have to expand," Watson said.
City and NRHS leaders presented the new emergency department and other planned expansions as another piece in the city's quality-of-life puzzle.
When major employers and businesses consider settling in Norman, they're looking at the strength and affordability of local utilities, public schools and health care for their employees, City Manager Darrel Pyle said Thursday.
Projects like Norman Regional Nine help show local investment in those issues, Pyle said.
"To be able to talk about, 'Our community is investing, just in Norman Regional, $280 million in the local economy,' a whole lot of boats float a lot higher with that kind of influx in cash," Pyle said. "The school district, they're talking about a $200-plus million bond, Norman Forward projects, we've got another $100 million worth of projects to go, and that reflects the quality of life that our residents experience, because those are tax dollars coming out of their pockets, and as long as they keep approving projects like this, it really does make everybody's future a little bit brighter."
Emma Keith is the editor of The Transcript, where she covers Norman Public Schools and the University of Oklahoma. Reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org or at @emma_ckeith.