By Associated Press - Friday, March 20, 2015

JOPLIN, Mo. (AP) - A new Joplin hospital will begin treating patients this weekend, replacing one that was destroyed in the country’s deadliest tornado in a half-century.

The $465 million Mercy Hospital Joplin, which opens its doors Sunday, is about three miles from where St. John’s Regional Medical Center once stood. The EF-5 twister hit St. John’s head-on in May 2011, and its 200 mph winds reportedly shifted the building 4 inches off its foundation, blew out virtually every window and scattered X-rays and medical records 75 miles away.

Among the 161 people killed in the storm were a St. John’s visitor and five patients who were on ventilators, which stopped working when flying debris disabled the hospital’s exposed generators. The new facility, which includes a nine-story hospital patient tower and five-story clinic tower, has a more dependable power source.

It also includes features that will make it better able to withstand another disaster. Builders say critical areas of the hospital, such as the emergency department and intensive care unit, have windows rated to withstand 250 mph winds.

“This rebuilding effort became part of the healing process for the community,” Norman Morgan, the head architect on the project for the firm HKS Inc., said in a written statement.

Funding included a $5 million donation from the United Arab Emirates. Mercy president Lynn Britton said during an open house earlier this month that the donation started a campaign that would raise $15 million toward the reconstruction.

Hospital officials said that after the new facility officially opens at 6 a.m. Sunday, ambulances will transfer patients from a temporary Mercy location to the new facility.

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