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Joplin’s Mercy Hospital keeps its promise with Olsson’s help

Friday, April 17, 2015

Nancy Wichmer, Marketing

If ever a promise was kept, it was one made by Mercy Medical Center in Joplin, Missouri.

Upon assessing the damage after a destructive EF-5 tornado hurtled through the town on May 22, 2011, officials found that Mercy Medical Center was destroyed. The metal roof had been peeled back, windows were shattered, plumbing had exploded, and medical equipment was strewn throughout the hospital’s floors. Many relayed accounts of medical professionals, visitors, and staff scrambling to protect patients and one another during this horrific ordeal.

Hospital staff members and community volunteers quickly volunteered to offer assistance and to safely transport patients away from the destruction. Never before had the City of Joplin been faced with a challenge of this magnitude. But Mercy officials didn’t hesitate. They rolled up their sleeves and started developing a plan—a plan and a promise to this community to build a new hospital. It was a promise that never wavered.

Shortly after the storm, Mercy contacted Olsson’s Jared Rasmussen, Land Development team leader, to provide emergency engineering expertise. As Mercy strived to keep medical services available to the community, Jared and several Olsson staff members worked tirelessly to accommodate the different phases of medical facilities that were needed while Mercy rebuilt. These facilities ranged from tents and foam modular structures to the Walden Hospital, which was the most-recently used facility until the replacement hospital opened on March 22, 2015. Olsson provided extensive geotechnical engineering, environmental assessments, and permitting. Olsson also provided testing services associated with the site preparation for each phase.

Through retrofitting buildings and using modified trailers, Olsson assisted Mercy with many civil-related engineering tasks. Olsson also designed parking lots, made sites Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA)-accessible, prepared a site for additional uses, and determined site elevations and gradings. For whatever Mercy requested, Olsson responded as swiftly as possible. Such assistance allowed Mercy’s medical staff to continue providing ongoing medical services to the community.

Olsson also helped select the site of the new hospital, and, throughout construction, Olsson provided ongoing, comprehensive site planning, surveying, special inspections, and materials testing. Olsson staff also designed related roadway and interstate interchange improvements to accommodate the new development and the increase in transportation in and around the hospital site.

“It was amazing what was achieved here within an expedited schedule of 39 months. The fast pace at which things moved and the willingness of the team to work so smoothly together was simply incredible,” Jared remembered. “Thirty-nine months is an extremely short time period to build anything of this magnitude. It was clear that everyone was working in the best interest of the Joplin community.”

Jared said there was an enormous amount of coordination that took place between Mercy Hospital, the City of Joplin, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Federal Aviation Administration, Missouri Department of Transportation, general contractor McCarthy Building Companies, architects HKS and Archimages, and Olsson Associates to expedite each component.

“Mercy treated Olsson as if we were an extension of their own staff,” Jared continued. “We truly appreciated the trust they put in our firm and their willingness to do so. It was unlike anything I have ever experienced before. In turn, we did everything we could to keep their best interests in the forefront. We appreciated the input and coordination of Mercy’s staff and with John Farnen and Dan O’Connor. We offered advice, and they were appreciative and listened. It truly was a pleasure working with Mercy staff.”

On March 7th, Mercy held an open house for the community to share in the rebirth of its hospital. Visitors, along with those who had worked to make this vision a reality, were able to cast their eyes on the splendor of teamwork. The building also represented how successful teamwork, with a common goal, was able to create something more than just a building. The hospital’s completion was visual proof that the Joplin community was resilient and stronger than ever.

The first transferred patient arrived at the new hospital on Sunday, March 22, before 7 a.m. A procession of ambulances could be seen as patients were transported from the temporary hospital to the new 900,000-square-foot, 200-bed hospital and clinic. The patients were welcomed by an eager staff and a state-of-the-art hospital—one with a storm-hardened design for the nine-story structure.

The hospital’s design has become a prototype for future Mercy hospital buildings. Features included the following:

  • Windows designed to withstand 250 miles-per-hour wind speed
  • Concrete exterior and roof
  • Fortified safe zones at the center of each hospital floor
  • Dual lines of electrical power, water, and data communications coming from different directions in case one fails
  • Generators and battery backup to prevent power failures

With the power of hard work and determination from numerous volunteers, professionals, and citizens, Olsson helped give the hospital new life.

For a larger view of the aerial to the left, please click here.

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