Joplin Hospital Hit by Tornado Will Be Rebuilt Stronger

June 29, 2012

St. John’s Regional Medical Center in Joplin is being rebuilt with the lessons learned from last year’s tornado in mind, which will make it stronger and safer, the project manager of the construction project said.

The May 22, 2011, tornado left St. John’s in ruins and killed five patients and one visitor. Other patients later died of injuries they suffered in the storm.

The new hospital, to be called Mercy Hospital Joplin, will have a more reliable power source, underground floors and impact-resistant windows and walls, project manager Steve Meuschke told The Joplin Globe.

“Mercy asked this question: What can we do so that this does not happen again?” Meuschke said.

The five patients who died at St. John’s were on ventilators, which stopped working when flying debris disabled the hospital’s exposed generators, the paper reported.

The new hospital will have a more dependable power source, Meuschke said, and the central utility plant will be away from the hospital and have a hardened exterior. It will house the emergency equipment and generators and be connected to the hospital through a tunnel that will contain all the hospital’s utility lines.

Two generators will be inside the reinforced bunker and fuel tanks stored underground will contain enough fuel to last four days. Empire District Electric Co. also will build a new substation near the hospital to provide a second power source. One Empire substation was wiped out in the tornado and six others were damaged.

Two of the new hospital’s nine floors will be underground – including 14 operating rooms – and will be shielded by concrete walls on three sides and the length of the hospital on the fourth side, Meuschke said. The lower floors will be evacuation areas if needed and above-ground floors will have safe zones with heavy-duty metal doors.

Laminated glass will be installed throughout the building, and window and frames in the ER will be impact-tested to withstand hurricane-strength winds. The exterior will use brick or precast stone and the roof will be concrete.

The hospital is expected to be completed in March 2015. The cost of construction is projected at $335 million.

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