By Mercy's Tina Rockhold
JOPLIN, Mo. – With shovel in hand, hundreds of Mercy Joplin co-workers and their families planted 150 saplings today. More than 40 percent of those trees were rescued from the site prior to excavation, as a nod to the future after living through the destruction of the 2011 EF5 tornado.
The tree-planting ceremony, near the 50th Street entrance of the new Mercy Hospital Joplin marks a milestone for the hospital which is set to open in March 2015. The tornado that made a direct hit on the old St. John’s Regional Medical Center and devastated a community also left Joplin stripped bare of so many trees. For many, trees are a hopeful sight.
“The event symbolizes a new beginning,” said Tracy Lemmons, Mercy’s human resources director. “As we watch these trees mature over the next 20 years, we’ll take pride in knowing we had a role in bringing this space to life.”
And time weaves stories of the past to share with future generations.
“Mercy is my home,” said Marilyn Endicott, Mercy supply chain director and co-worker for 33 years. “Participating in this ceremony gives me a sense of the great accomplishment and fulfillment of rebuilding our hospital. I want my granddaughter to know the history with St. John’s, now Mercy, and share the story of this successful journey.”
As the grounds come to life, so too does the reality that Mercy co-workers will soon be caring for patients inside the new hospital.
“Saturday’s work represents the work we do at Mercy,” said Gary Pulsipher, Mercy Hospital Joplin president. “We give of ourselves to foster health, growth and strength in the people we serve.”
Before the spades hit the dirt, Pulsipher shared a welcome followed by a prayer and blessing of the saplings by Joel James, Mercy vice president of mission. In addition, Chris Pistole, education director of the Wildcat Glades Conservation and Audubon Center, provided an overview of the tree species.
According to John Farnen, executive director of Mercy’s strategic projects, the idea for the tree-planting ceremony originated in early 2012 when the parcel of land was first surveyed for construction. “This is one more completed piece of the original site development plan,” he said.
As the March 22 opening date approaches, Endicott looks most forward to co-workers being together under one roof.
“As we prepare to move into the new hospital, there’s a sense of unity and camaraderie,” she said. “We can’t wait to unveil our new services, private patient rooms, larger emergency department and plan for improved patient flow throughout the facility.”
The new hospital and physician offices will have about 880,000 square feet of space and more than 200 patient beds. It not only replaces the former St. John’s but three temporary facilities built as Mercy worked feverishly to continue care in Joplin. Including nearby clinics, Mercy will build about one million square feet of new space in Joplin –similar to what was lost to the tornado.
Plans for the new hospital itself include medical and surgical, critical, intensive and cancer care – as well as greatly expanded care for women and children, with labor, delivery, recovery and postpartum rooms and a new neonatal intensive care unit.