JOPLIN, MO.--- For many people in Joplin, it's the last piece of the puzzle signifying the city's road to recovery. Now, almost three years after the 2011 tornado, Mercy Hospital Joplin is coming back for a stronger future.
"The anticipation is building," said Dr. Sean Smith, D.O. Mercy Emergency Department.
Since the 2011 tornado, Dr. Sean Smith and hundreds of other Mercy staff members have been in five different facilities.
"Between the one that was destroyed by the tornado, then we were in a tent hospital, well, we actually went to Memorial Hall first, then a tent hospital, then we were in a trailer modular hospital, then our temporary permanent structure that we're in now," said Dr. Smith.
Now the real permanent structure is set to open next year and Mercy staff couldn't be more excited.
"Everything in it is structured to give the best patient service experience, the best in care, to make it efficient for the co-workers and the physicians that are providing that care, all in a beautiful state of the art facility," said Dr. Smith.
The new 875,000 square foot Mercy Hospital overlooks I-44 near Hearnes Boulevard, with each step the Mercy community moves closer to welcoming it's first patient.
"200 beds is what they're planning on right now, and then the 8th floor is shelled and there's a capacity for another 46 beds on the 8th floor if and when Mercy decides to fit that out," said Stephen Meuschke, McCarthy, Senior Project Manager.
Construction has also been on an aggressive schedule, with mock-up rooms already complete before other rooms get installed.
"On a typical project of this magnitude to design, fabricate, install, and complete the whole building, you're looking at six to seven years, and this facility, we're doing that in about half the time," said Meuschke.
Everything has been designed with efficiency in mind.
"You're building a greenfield hospital from day one instead of a facility that's 80 years old where you're constantly building on and adding on and it's kind of chopped up, and it's not as efficient as it should be," said Daniel Shuh, Mercy Project Manager.
"We're going to have supplies put in key areas instead of staff having to walk long distance to get supplies. There will be stations near the patient room so that the nurses can be closer to the patients they are caring for," said Meuschke.
Construction and design crews have also made weather safety a top priority.
"Windows was kind of the weak link that we saw, especially in critical areas where you can't move patients as easy. Co-workers just don't have that time when a tornado's coming," said Shuh.
Every window is upgraded from what you would see in a typical building, to some windows built to withstand 90 mile an hour winds, and others built to withstand even more.
"Designed to 250 miles an hour wind load and then also a 15 pound 2 by 4 at 100 miles an hour," said Shuh.
All those involved in the project say they're honored to be part of the experience.
"90-plus percent of the workers out here are from Joplin proper, and I think they take a lot of pride in what they're doing, trying to get this back for Joplin," said Meuschke.
"This is a special project for all of us. A one in a lifetime opportunity on a big job. And not only that, it's the story behind the big job," said Shuh.
"We've all been through that disaster together, makes us more of a family, we're tighter knit and the closer we get to that hospital, it's bringing morale up," said Dr. Smith.
Project managers say the construction schedule is right on time with drywall, flooring, ceiling, and other finishing touches still left to do. Mercy Hospital Joplin is set to open its doors in March of 2015.
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