Cherokee Nation Learns From Joplin Builders To Create Safer Hospital

Thursday, May 15th 2014, 5:46 pm
By: Craig Day

Designers of a hospital that will be built in the next year in Tahlequah are adding extra safety measures to protect patients and employees during severe weather.

The Cherokee nation will spend millions of dollars to make the hospital as tornado proof as possible, and, they'll get advice from people who learned a lot when a hospital in Joplin took a direct hit.

5/23/2011 Related Story: A Third Of Joplin Gone After Tornado Ravages City

When the EF-5 tornado devastated Joplin in 2011, it destroyed Saint John Hospital, causing chaos for patients and staff, and for first responders trying to get injured people to the care they desperately needed.

A new hospital is being built in Joplin, including construction to help make the new facility more tornado proof.

The Cherokee Nation hopes to learn from them.

"Our disaster systems and plans will be so much easier if we're not worrying about the hospital coming down," said Chief Bill John Baker of the Cherokee Nation.

The Cherokee Nation plans to build a new $60 million surgical hospital in Tahlequah in the next year.

Friday, they'll send a team to Joplin to get ideas they can use in the construction of the tribe's new facility to enable it to better withstand a tornado.

"We're going to implement as much as we possibly can," Baker said.

"Reinforced thicker walls, they also have a special kind of glass that will withstand that sort of wind force," said Chuck Grim with the Cherokee Nation Health Services.

The tribal council agreed to add $7 million to the construction budget for the new facility for the tornado proof construction, but Baker said it made sense to spend the extra money.

"For the next 50, 60 years, it will be a place of protection and a safe harbor," he said.

Grim said, "Being where we're at, knowing that it could happen really at any time, we decided to take that step."

The goal is to provide better safety for patients and hospital employees, as well as peace of mind, if another powerful and deadly tornado like the one that hit Joplin, hits closer to home.

Another goal of the reinforced construction for the Tahlequah hospital is to provide people in the community a safe place to go if there's a tornado.