Gov. Nixon given sneak preview of completed 6th floor

Tuesday, October 16, 2012 - Gov. Nixon given sneak preview of completed 6th floor

JOPLIN, Mo.—Governor Jay Nixon today joined Freeman Health System administrators for a sneak peak tour of Gary & Donna Hall Tower sixth floor. Scheduled to welcome its first patients this month, the 24,000 square foot space will provide 29 private rooms and will employ 70 additional nursing staff. The $8 million project was completed in a record-breaking 165 days.

Gary & Donna Hall Tower opened in October 2007. The project tripled the size of Freeman Hospital West Emergency Department and added 56 private patient rooms. The 186,000-square-foot space enhanced Freeman’s life-saving technology and patient amenities. At the recommendation of the Freeman Board of Directors, the fifth and sixth floors of the tower were left unfinished, intended for future growth. The need for that growth came suddenly on May 22, 2011, when an EF5 tornado left much of Joplin in ruins and its healthcare landscape forever altered.

“It became apparent immediately after the tornado that our region was facing a severe shortage of healthcare beds,” said Paula Baker, Freeman President and Chief Executive Officer. “This two-hospital community had been knocked to its knees, and we knew that Freeman needed to respond.”

Prior to the tornado, plans had already been considered to expand the Intensive Care Unit (ICU). But since the storm, Freeman has been the only health system in the area accepting priority 1 trauma patients, meaning those who suffer from the most serious life-threatening illnesses or injuries, thus hastening the need for additional ICU beds. Planning to meet that need by finishing out the sixth floor began three days after the storm, along with plans to finish the fifth floor, which opened in March.

The sixth floor will establish a 13-bed Surgical Intensive Care Unit. It will also now be home to a 16-bed Transitional Care Unit, a unit added in the aftermath of the storm to care for people not sick enough to stay in ICU but too ill to return to the regular medical floor. In total, these 29 beds will provide quality care to our community’s most fragile patients. The sixth floor is punctuated with the latest technology healthcare has to offer and is equipped with a new nurse call system and security system.

Designed with input from patients, the 29 private rooms provide an abundance of sitting space for family and guests. Because Freeman encourages family to stay overnight with their loved ones, each room is equipped with an ample sleeping area for guests. Flat-screen TVs will help provide all the comforts of home. Following the completion of a cafeteria remodel in early 2013, all Freeman patients will enjoy hotel-style room service, allowing them to place made-to-order meals of their choosing.

Because of this additional space and the clinical staff it will soon employ, Freeman patients will experience decreased wait times while receiving faster admittance, diagnosis, and treatment.

“The extension of our ICU was needed on multiple levels,” said Jeff Carrier, Freeman Chief Clinical Officer. “Our staff worked day and night to quickly deliver the sixth floor to the Four States. But that is what you do when your community needs you. We are proud to respond to those needs.”

About Freeman Health System

Based in Joplin, Missouri, Freeman Health System is the area’s only locally owned, not-for-profit health system, serving southwest Missouri, southeast Kansas, northeast Oklahoma, and northwest Arkansas. Freeman provides comprehensive healthcare and behavioral health services, including cancer care, heart and vascular care, neurosciences, orthopaedics, and women’s services, with more than 300 physicians representing 60 specialties. For more information, visit freemanhealth.com or facebook.com/freemanhealthsystem, or follow Freeman President and Chief Executive Officer Paula Baker at twitter.com/freemanceo.