Staff and patients of the Mercy Hospital in Joplin, Missouri have successfully moved to their new permanent facility after spending nearly four years in a temporary building because of a hurricane damaging the old hospital.
Mercy Hospital Joplin's ambulance drivers began transferring the 79 patients at a few minutes before 7 a.m. on Sunday. Each ride took around 10 minutes from the hospital's temporary facility on 28th Street and St. John's Boulevard to the new Mercy Hospital Joplin at 50th Street and Hearnes Boulevard.
Seventeen critical patients were moved first, according to a hospital official interviewed by the Joplin Globe. By 11 a.m., all patients were moved with no incident, and the old hospital and emergency room were closed. Among the patients moved was a woman who was expecting twins at any moment. She was transferred in an ambulance accompanied by Dr. Jeff Manley and delivered a healthy boy and girl one hour into the move.
"We all knew last night, we were hoping that she wouldn't go into labor before," says nurse practitioner Rachel Higdon. "And she made it through the night safely and everything. So it worked out great."
The new hospital was designed to provide maximum efficiency in treating patients, with the 34 treatment rooms located near the diagnostic centers that patients might need to visit.
"It's so easy to get the baby from there into the NICU. It's just a few steps away," says Higdon. "They've really put a lot of thought into the whole flow of how the patient moves from point A to point B and that just makes our job so much more efficient."
On May 22, 2011, the old hospital located at St. John's Regional Medical Center was hit by an EF-5 tornado that knocked the building off four inches from its foundation. Five patients and one visitor were killed.
"I remember seeing the curtains flat against the ceiling and two female nurses and a male nurse laying on top of me," says Sandra Waggoner, one of the patients at the old hospital and one of the new patients at Mercy Joplin. "We all started praying until the wind stopped.
The new $465 million, 900,000-square-foot facility is built with stronger walls and windows that can withstand winds travelling up to 250 miles per hour and has its electrical systems placed securely underground.
"I got teary eyed when I came in this morning," says Nora Cannon, director of cardiovascular services who has been working at the hospital since 1989. "It's been a long journey. It's like we have come full circle."