A year later

Jo­plin hos­pi­tals re­build, be­come bet­ter pre­pared

Modern Healthcare - - THE WEEK IN HEALTHCARE - Paul Barr

The health­care com­mu­nity serv­ing Jo­plin, Mo., is work­ing hard to re­build ca­pac­ity one year af­ter a tor­nado de­stroyed one of its hos­pi­tals, as emer­gency pre­pared­ness ex­perts try to use Jo­plin’s ex­pe­ri­ence to al­low other hos­pi­tals to be­come bet­ter pre­pared.

Ex­ec­u­tives for Mercy Hospi­tal Jo­plin— known as St. John’s Re­gional Med­i­cal Cen­ter be­fore the May 22, 2011 storm—and two-hospi­tal Free­man Health Sys­tem are in the mid­dle of post-storm con­struc­tion projects worth about $1 bil­lion, the vast ma­jor­ity of that at Mercy.

Mercy Jo­plin, part of 25-hospi­tal Mercy health sys­tem, Ch­ester­field, Mo., ex­pects to have spent $980 mil­lion restor­ing ser­vices af­fected by the storm once all is said and done. “It’s been a flurry of ac­tiv­ity,” said Gary Pul­sipher, pres­i­dent and CEO of Mercy Jo­plin. Mercy Hospi­tal Jo­plin opened a $105 mil­lion, 110-bed com­po­nent hospi­tal in April, which re­placed trail­er­like fa­cil­i­ties with 46 beds. A per­ma­nent hospi­tal slated for com­ple­tion in March 2015 is ex­pected to cost about $500 mil­lion.

Free­man, with two cam­puses in Jo­plin and a 25-bed crit­i­cal-ac­cess hospi­tal in Neosho, Mo., worked quickly to ex­pand af­ter the storm hit. Free­man added a 12-bed tran­si­tional in­ten­sive­care unit shortly af­ter the storm and an­other 29 pri­vate beds in April, said Paula Baker, pres­i­dent and CEO of Free­man. That brings Free­man Health’s two-cam­pus Jo­plin bed count to 421 from 382, and the sys­tem plans to add an­other 29 beds in Septem­ber, for a cost be­tween the two of $16 mil­lion, spokes­woman Chris­ten Stark said. Other con­struc­tion projects will bring its tor­nado-as­so­ci­ated spend­ing to $24.7 mil­lion, Stark said.

Given how many beds were lost when the tor­nado de­stroyed St. John’s, ex­ec­u­tives for both hos­pi­tals say Jo­plin and the sur­round­ing area can sup­port the beds be­ing cre­ated at the two com­peti­tors. “Ab­so­lutely,” Pul­sipher said in an e-mail. He noted that Mercy Jo­plin and its re­cently leased and nearby Mercy Hospi­tal Carthage com­bined will have fewer li­censed beds than the old St. John’s did be­fore the storm. Be­fore the storm, St. John’s staffed 341 beds, ac­cord­ing to the Amer­i­can Hospi­tal As­so­ci­a­tion (May 30, 2011, p. 6).

Sim­i­larly, Free­man ex­ec­u­tives are mov­ing full steam ahead. “I’m very op­ti­mistic about Free­man’s fu­ture growth,” Baker said.

Both hos­pi­tals are strug­gling with tor­nadore­lated fi­nan­cial is­sues. Though an ex­pected pay­out from storm-re­lated in­sur­ance claims will soften the blow, the big hit taken to Mercy Jo­plin’s pa­tient ca­pac­ity cre­ated big losses. In the year ended Dec. 31, Mercy Jo­plin posted an op­er­at­ing loss of $72.6 mil­lion, which, in­clud­ing a $338 mil­lion par­tial in­sur­ance pay­out, pro­duced a net in­come of $337.3 mil­lion, ac­cord­ing to fi­nan­cial doc­u­ments filed for mu­nic­i­pal bond in­vestors. Par­ent Mercy, mean­while, posted big in­vest­ment losses and ac­tu­ally fared bet­ter fi­nan­cially as a re­sult of the in­sur­ance pay­out, which off­set the in­vest­ment losses at the sys­tem of $82.4 mil­lion. Mercy’s net in­come was $256.3 mil­lion, but af­ter tak­ing out Jo­plin’s re­sults, it would have lost $81 mil­lion.

At the same time, Free­man has seen a big in­crease in pa­tients that has sharply boosted staffing and sup­ply costs, as well as un­com­pen­sated care pro­vi­sions. But in gen­eral, it’s do­ing bet­ter. Fi­nan­cial data posted for mu­nic­i­pal bond in­vestors showed Free­man to have posted op­er­at­ing in­come of $8.3 mil­lion in the year ended March 31, and net in­come was $31.2 mil­lion

Out­side of Jo­plin, in­dus­try of­fi­cials want to spread the word about what can be learned from the hos­pi­tals’ re­sponse to the Jo­plin tor­nado, which cre­ated un­ex­pected ob­sta­cles to first re­spon­ders. The Mis­souri Hospi­tal As­so­ci­a­tion last week pub­lished a re­port that de­tails the events dur­ing and af­ter the tor­nado, and iden­ti­fied ways emer­gency prepa­ra­tions might be im­proved. The au­thors of the re­port hope it will be use­ful out­side of Mis­souri given the num­ber of tor­na­does and other dis­as­ters hit­ting hos­pi­tals and com­mu­ni­ties across the coun­try.

Jo­plin’s health­care sys­tem did a good job of re­spond­ing to a dis­as­ter that was “out­side the scope of what any (emer­gency) plan­ner ex­pects,” said Dave Dil­lon, MHA spokesman. “Plans are an im­por­tant part of prepa­ra­tion, but the most im­por­tant part is hav­ing the staff un­der­stand in­ci­dent com­mand and what their roles are,” he said, and that it’s hard to de­scribe their ac­tions “as any­thing less than heroic.”

Nev­er­the­less, the Jo­plin re­sponse was ham­pered by the loss of elec­tronic com­mu­ni­ca­tions and for a time was re­ly­ing on mes­sen­gers to com­mu­ni­cate, Dil­lon said. The MHA re­port, called “Pre­pared­ness and Part­ner­ships: Lessons Learned from the Mis­souri Dis­as­ters of 2011,” high­lights some ways to keep com­mu­ni­ca­tion prob­lems to a min­i­mum.

Wendy Thomas, a me­te­o­rol­o­gist with the Amer­i­can Me­te­o­ro­log­i­cal So­ci­ety’s Pol­icy Pro­gram, said that over time it has be­come ap­par­ent that the hospi­tal in­dus­try in gen­eral has re­lied on build­ing designs that carry tor­nado risks. The in­dus­try’s “cookie cut­ter” ap­proach, she said, has led to the use of a lot of ex­posed win­dows, backup gen­er­a­tors that can be vul­ner­a­ble to risks, and el­e­va­tor sys­tems with rooftop pent­houses that are also vul­ner­a­ble to pro­jec­tiles and other wind dan­gers.

Pul­sipher speaks at the Jan. 29 ground­break­ing for Mercy Jo­plin, which is ex­pected to cost about $500 mil­lion.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from USA

© PressReader. All rights reserved.