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Joplin hospital reopens on smaller scale

JOPLIN, Mo. - It will probably be years before this southwestern Missouri city fully recovers from the tornado that destroyed large parts of it just more than a week ago, but in just one week the city has managed to restore one of its most important services, CBS News correspondent Ben Tracy reports.

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After the monster tornado slammed into Joplin, one of the most shocking images was the destruction of St. John's Regional Medical Center.

"It was like a bomb went off inside almost on every floor," chief executive Gary Pulsipher told reporters last week.

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When the hospital released photos of conditions inside, everyone knew they could no longer rely on the one building they needed most.

"It was obvious this facility was incapacitated," said Rod Pace, manager of St. John's Medflight, the medical helicopter program.

But in just 90 minutes May 22, 183 patients were evacuated; six people died.

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A survey of the building's second floor found all the windows blown out. The place is frozen in time: Offices with computers still on desks; wheelchairs just stacked up as people were evacuating.

One patient's radiology and oncology chart found on the floor gives the impression that all of the hospital's medical records were lost. Hospital executives said last week that patient information was safe because the hospital moved from paper to electronic records in May.

Now, just one week later, St. John's has been resuscitated. A temporary tent hospital across the street from the wrecked building is similar to what the military sets up in battle. Trailers house MRI and CAT scan units, and two helipads have already been paved.

"We can do already what we used to do in our big building, just on a smaller scale, and as we go through the next few weeks that scale will grow," said Dr. Bob Dodson, St. John's trauma medical director.

Most of the 900 who were injured in the tornado are being treated in neighboring towns, but the mobile hospital can now handle up to 60 patients at a time. They plan to use it for at least six months.

"This is not ideal, but for gosh sake's look what happened, and to get to this point so quickly, I think, is amazing," said Dr. Richard Wolf, a St. John's cardiologist.

A reflection of just how far Joplin has already come.

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