By Andra Bryan Stefanoni
Gov. Jay Nixon was among the first on Tuesday morning to get a look at the new sixth floor at Freeman Hospital West, built in response to the increased health care needs of the region after the 2011 tornado.
It is an $8 million space in the Gary and Donna Hall Tower that will house the intensive care unit and the transitional care unit. It will begin accepting patients later this month.
The floor will employ 90 additional nursing staff members, and numerous support personnel in housekeeping and nutrition. Nixon called the hospital’s recent expansions “a significant driver of the economy in Southwest Missouri.”
“This is a place that serves the Four-State region, and many of the patients that are served here come from Arkansas, Oklahoma, Kansas, because they know they can get the quality of care and the specialty care they need,” he said.
Plans for expanding the intensive care unit had been considered before the May 22, 2011, tornado, but they were accelerated three days after the twister wrecked St. John’s Regional Medical Center.
Paula Baker, Freeman Health System president and chief executive officer, who conducted the tour for Nixon, said the sixth-floor project was completed in a record-breaking 165 days.
Composed of 24,000 square feet, it includes a 13-bed surgical intensive care unit and a 16-bed transitional care unit for patients who are not sick enough to stay in intensive care but are too sick to return to a regular medical floor.
The floor is equipped with the latest technology the medical field has to offer, Baker said. Staff members demonstrated during the tour a new touch screen call system for nurses in each patient room, and a negative pressure room designed for infection control. Each patient room is equipped with a sleeping area for guests, and with mobile patient monitors that can accompany them to testing in other areas.
April Bennett, director of the cardiac medical unit, transitional care unit and surgical intensive care unit, said the amenities will not only make patients more comfortable, but also will mean faster diagnosis and treatment.
Nixon praised the hospital for its leadership, investment and vision during a time in which it was simultaneously responding to increased health care needs and dealing with the loss of several Freeman satellite operations.
“There’s no facility anywhere in America that has any more amenities, no place that is going to be safer, no place with less potential for infection,” Nixon said. “And when you see state of the art as good as anywhere in the world right here in Joplin, Mo., it continues to add to that strength of Freeman.”
Earlier Tuesday morning, Nixon was on hand for a groundbreaking for a new pet food manufacturing and distribution center that is expected to create up to 150 jobs.
“You feel like we’re turning that corner,” he said of Joplin’s progress.
AN INVITATION-ONLY EVENT was held Tuesday afternoon to introduce people to Freeman Health System’s latest construction effort.