INTEGRIS Southwest Medical Center is a beacon of hope in south Oklahoma City. It’s an advanced, high quality hospital meeting the medical needs of a growing community. But what you may not know, is that it all began as the silver lining of a family tragedy.
In 1923, Mr. and Mrs. Nick Reding lost their 16-month-old daughter Rosemary to a sudden illness. A recent rainfall made the Canadian River impassable by horse and buggy. The nearest doctor couldn’t get to the home in time to save the small child. The family vowed then and there, that someday there would be a hospital built in south Oklahoma City so that another family would never have to experience their pain.
Keeping true to their promise, the Reding family deeded ten acres of land to the then Capitol Hill Chamber of Commerce in 1962. There was one stipulation: the land had to be used for the construction of a hospital. “My dad talked about Rosemary a lot. This was something to us, it was part of us,” says Lillian Sparagowski, Reding’s daughter. “It makes me proud to see it, all he accomplished in his lifetime. A lot of time I hear it spoken of as Papa’s hospital, that’s Papa’s hospital.”
Development of South Community Hospital began in 1963. “United We Stand” was the slogan selected for the community fund-raising campaign. The goal was $500,000. Volunteers hit the streets collecting money. “We started around the neighborhood. My husband went with me and knocked on doors and I was amazed by the people who were willing to give $100,” remembers Loraine Hudson. “I would just ask for a donation and they gave $100, which shocked me to death because $100 was a lot of money at that time.”
The groundbreaking for the new hospital took place on April 2, 1964. The grand opening was on Nov. 1, 1965. Dan Tipton was the chief executive officer from 1963 to 1995. “There was a lot of pride in the hospital on the south side and, at the open house, people were lined up out the door to 44th street. It was a lot of people.” Tipton adds, “We filled the beds immediately. The first two or three years we had an occupancy rate of 110 percent. You say, how did you have 110 percent; well, we put them in the halls.”
South Community Hospital started small. It was three stories tall with a staff of 130 people and 73 patient beds. The hospital grew quickly. By 1969, it had more than doubled in size with 200 beds and 450 employees. By the early ‘80s, the hospital was a towering ten stories high with a capacity of 400 beds.
Millions of dollars worth of improvements brought more doctors and major milestones. The Central Oklahoma Cancer Center opened in 1988. It was the first complete outpatient cancer facility in central Oklahoma. Recognized as a national leader in sleep research, the Sleep Disorders Center of Oklahoma also opened in that year. In 1992, South Community Hospital changed its name to Southwest Medical Center. The five-story Medical Plaza building opened in 1993. And in ‘94, a free-standing Jim Thorpe Rehabilitation facility was finally realized, filling a void in the continuity of care. Jim Thorpe has since grown to include more than 150 rehab beds at the south and north campuses combined. It attracts patients from around the state and across the nation.
It was in 1995 that Southwest Medical Center officially joined the INTEGRIS Health system. With system support, the hospital continued to flourish, bringing much-needed amenities and expertise to the state. Its emergency room became the biggest and busiest, training many of the ER physicians in Oklahoma today.
In 2006, the INTEGRIS Neuromuscular Center became just the 36th center in the country to be certified by the Muscular Dystrophy Association to treat patients with ALS, more commonly known as Lou Gehrig’s disease. It is the only center in Oklahoma dedicated to serving the needs of these patients and families. The INTEGRIS James R. Daniel Stroke Center was established to respond to the escalating number of strokes in our state. It became Joint Commission certified in 2007 and continues to receive honors and awards for its commitment to improving stroke care.
The dream that began so long ago, has far surpassed all expectations. It now represents a legacy of success to be proud of, for generations to come. “This past fiscal year alone we saw 82,000 people in ER, we performed more than 6,000 surgeries, and we delivered 1300 babies at INTEGRIS Southwest Medical Center,” says current hospital president James Moore. “When you think about what INTEGRIS Southwest means to this community, it literally serves as an icon in south Oklahoma City, it literally serves as an economic engine. To INTEGRIS Southwest Medical Center, Happy Birthday, and I wish you many more years of serving south Oklahoma City.”