Four days. That’s the time Freeman Health System’s Rosie Hubbard spent overseeing the creation of a medical COVID-19 unit inside the Joplin hospital’s medical oncology unit.

While she doesn’t know if those frantic 96 hours constitute a hospital record, she said she does know she and a slew of others “really worked hard to put it all together.”

“It was all hands on deck," said Hubbard, director of the unit. "We worked with IT (information technology), maintenance, biomed, physicians, infection control — just to make sure” the new 16-bed unit “was a safe working environment and that we had all the equipment that we needed to take care of the patients and to keep them safe in one room (and) in one area.”

The new COVID-19 unit, now in operation, is the latest in Freeman Health System’s ongoing fight against the deadly disease.

“Opening up this COVID unit,” Hubbard said, has been a “pretty big deal.”

Which is nothing new to Hubbard, who has spent her entire medical career at 1102 W. 32nd St. in Joplin.

“I’ve been a nurse for 10 years, which is the entirety of my nursing career,” the rural Nevada resident said. “I grew up on this unit — I started off as an RN, advanced to charge nurse, then assistant director, and then for the past two years I’ve been the director.”

The COVID-19 unit, she said, primarily cares for patients who are positive for the virus, still need to be hospitalized but aren’t showing life-threatening symptoms. Initially, all COVID-19 patients were cared for in the intensive care unit a floor above, which is where the critically ill COVID-19 patients — those needing ventilators — are still cared for.

One end of Freeman’s medical oncology unit — in its entirety a loop of 56 rooms with nursing stations located at either end — was converted into the new COVID-19 unit, primarily by shutting and securing twin fire doors in both halls and constructing a new wall that cuts off access into the area from other hospital departments.

“We just wanted to make sure that we’re not intermingling our patients as much as possible,” meaning they don’t want a patient with, say, kidney issues lying next to a patient with COVID-19, she said.

Along with the 16 patient rooms, a 17th room was converted into a cleaning and sanitizing area for the nurses and physicians, “because hygiene and sanitation are very imperative whenever we are taking care of our COVID patients,” Hubbard said. “I think the (the nurses) feel safer because they know we’re providing them with the proper equipment to take care of COVID patients.”

As of last Friday, a dozen patients were being cared for in the new unit.

“We’re going to keep this unit open as long as the community needs us to,” Hubbard said.

Hubbard earned her nursing degree from Graceland University in Independence and was immediately employed at Freeman after graduation.