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Letter to the Editor: Mercy Hospital Joplin proves to be project with purpose

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Dear editor,

Every project has purpose. In the case of Joplin’s Mercy Hospital, the purpose carried a greater sense of urgency than most projects. The city of Joplin needed a new, functional medical facility as quickly as possible in the aftermath of the May 2011 tornado that destroyed the previous hospital.

Thirty-nine months following the natural disaster, Mercy Hospital opened for business – a remarkable achievement that could only result from a high level of commitment and teamwork from everybody involved.

When it was announced that Mercy Hospital received a Vista Award from the American Hospital Association’s American Society for Healthcare Engineering, judges cited teamwork as a major reason the facility was honored. The project won the 2018 Vista Award for new construction.

Teamwork came into play almost immediately after the tornado struck the city. At first, the goal was to minimize the impact the tornado had on the community by finding ways to provide care for its patients and those injured in the storm. Next, Mercy’s John Farnen, project director for the new facility, gathered a team to start planning a state-of-the-art replacement facility.

Within hours after the tornado touched down, Olsson Associates Inc. staff members were providing emergency engineering expertise to accommodate the different phases of medical facilities that were needed to provide care for current patients.

Our role expanded as we worked with the lead architect, construction director, and structural and electrical engineers to provide site/civil engineering design, geotechnical investigation services, environmental permitting with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, land surveying, special inspections, materials testing and Federal Emergency Management Agency process compliance services for the new replacement hospital. We also worked with the Missouri Department of Transportation, the Federal Highway Administration and the city of Joplin to modify roadways and a highway interchange.

This was no ordinary project. We went to work each day knowing we were working to build a much-needed facility that would provide vital medical care for the people of Joplin.

And to help a community heal and rebuild.

According to ASHE’s report, “Community service and inclusion was a big part of the Mercy team’s mission to quickly and effectively fill a void left when its previous facility was destroyed in a natural disaster.” [Editor’s note: The 890,000-square-foot Mercy Hospital Joplin project had a budget of $345 million and costs came in at $344.1 million, according to award materials. It also finished a month ahead of schedule.]

As I look back, it was amazing what the team achieved within such a tight timeline. The fast pace at which things moved and the willingness of the team to work so smoothly together was simply incredible. Three years and three months is an extremely short time period to build anything of this magnitude. It became perfectly clear that everyone was working in the best interest of the Joplin community.

Olsson is honored to have been part of such a purposeful project that helped restore vital services to the community.

—Jared Rasmussen, civil engineering team leader, Olsson Associates Inc.

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