Mercy assumes operational control of Carthage, Mo., hospital

February 15, 2012

System begins construction of flagship hospital in nearby Joplin

Mercy health system of Chesterfield, Mo., is now operating a southwest Missouri community hospital under a 50-year lease agreement that the system said enables it to improve health care access in a region heavily impacted by a May tornado.

Carthage, Mo., is about 15 miles from Joplin, Mo., home of St. John's Mercy Hospital. That facility was destroyed in the F5 tornado, and Mercy has committed to invest at least $950 million to rebuild the health care system in the region. Mercy hosted back-to-back ceremonies Jan. 29 to mark the beginning of demolition work on the facility destroyed by the storm and the start of construction on a permanent replacement hospital. The Missouri State Highway Patrol and other first responders escorted a 4-foot-high wooden cross the three miles between the old and new sites as part of the service. The cross had hung in St. John's emergency room.

Under the lease agreement approved by the Carthage City Council, Mercy is operating that community's four-year-old, 52-bed McCune-Brooks Hospital and employs all of its associates. Mercy will pay about $3 million per year toward McCune-Brooks' $40 million bond debt, plus an additional $250,000 annually that Mercy will pay to McCune-Brooks.

Mercy also will invest between $20 million and $30 million to improve health care in Carthage, including by implementing an electronic health record system. The system will determine how best to invest those funds in part by conducting community health system planning sessions in Carthage. Like the sessions Mercy conducted in nearly 30 communities in four states where it provides services, the gatherings in Carthage are enabling community leaders — including school, business and religious representatives — to share their ideas about the area's health needs. The first such session took place Jan. 17, just after a blessing ceremony the hospital held to mark its Jan. 1 entrance into Mercy.

McCune-Brooks is among the hospitals employing some St. John's staff under a talent-sharing agreement intended to keep all of St. John's employees meaningfully employed while Mercy rebuilds in Joplin. Mercy has provided continuous care in Joplin since the tornado, beginning with a tent hospital immediately after the storm, moving to a hard-sided modular facility in August and now preparing to transition to a more permanent structure this spring that will serve Mercy's needs until it completes construction of its replacement facilities.

McCune-Brooks' patient load doubled after the tornado, and Mercy contributed $1.8 million to help update and outfit an empty wing so that the hospital could grow from 25 beds to 52 beds, to meet the demand.

Gary Pulsipher, president of St. John's, noted that McCune-Brooks was the first hospital to offer its support to St. John's in the tornado's aftermath. "The (lease) arrangement feels like a natural progression for both McCune-Brooks and Mercy," he said. McCune-Brooks will abide by the Ethical and Religious Directives for Catholic Health Care Services.


Copyright © 2012 by the Catholic Health Association of the United States
For reprint permission, contact Betty Crosby or call (314) 253-3477.

Copyright © 2012 by the Catholic Health Association of the United States

For reprint permission, contact Betty Crosby or call (314) 253-3490.