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Mercy Opens New, Interim Hospital in Joplin

Since the devastating tornado in Joplin last May, Mercy has been operating out of tents and trailers in the area since its main campus was destroyed in the storm. Now, the health care system plans to open a new, interim hospital in Joplin next week. KSMU’s Samuel Crowe reports.

The new facility has been a long time coming for Joplin residents. Mercy opened a tent hospital a week after the tornado hit, and followed that up months later with small medical facilities that looked like trailers. Now a sturdy, steel framed building with two-story inpatient wings will be able to accommodate more than 100 patients.

Miranda Lewis of Mercy says the facility was “component built.” That means separate pieces were constructed in California and shipped to Joplin via trucks and trains. Lewis says piecing the facility together from components that were already 80 percent built allowed Mercy to open the hospital in time before severe weather hits the area.

“This structure is built to withstand about 200 miles an hour winds. That’s part of the reason why Mercy felt it was so important that we go ahead and get moved into this new facility before the storm season hit,” Lewis said.

The facility features an improved CAT scanner with sharper image resolution as well as a full-scale emergency department where surgeons can conduct open heart procedures.

“Patients will again have a private bathroom. We’ll have four operating suites, and something we’re really excited about is that we’re going to be able to re-open our labor and delivery, and that’s something that’s a really big deal around here,” Lewis said.

Freeman has been the only full service hospital in the area since the tornado. Paula Baker is the president and CEO of Freeman Health System in Joplin. Though she expects some pressure will be lifted off of Freeman’s shoulders now, she expects her hospital to remain busy.

“Before the tornado, they were a 367 bed facility. Although it will help, it certainly isn’t going to equalize the number of beds in the community that we had before the tornado,” Baker said.

Mercy’s interim facility will open April 15th, and the permanent hospital is expected to open in 2015. For KSMU News, I’m Samuel Crowe.