By WALLY KENNEDY
(JOPLIN, Mo., AP) — Gladys Dutton has done a lot of things in her life, but Monday’s dedication of the Communities at Wildwood Ranch nursing home marked a first.
“I’ve never cut a ribbon before,” she said. “I hope I do a good job.”
Dutton was one of four residents to participate in the opening of the $8.5 million nursing center that eventually will be home to 120 people.
About her stay there, she said, “I don’t think I have received as much attention since I was born 93 years ago.”
The opening of the center marks a milestone in Joplin’s recovery from the tornado on May 22, 2011, when 300 nursing home beds and 16 lives were lost, The Joplin Globe reported (http://bit.ly/1gyjW2J ).
The Communities at Wildwood Ranch, which has 60,000 square feet, replaces the 120-bed Meadows Care Center, a 34,000-square-foot building.
Also destroyed in the tornado was the Greenbriar, a nursing home. According to Globe records, at least 16 people at the nursing home, including one employee, died in the storm. Plans call for it to be renamed Southgate. It will be reconstructed.
LTC Consulting, a Sikeston-based group, managed both nursing homes.
State Rep. Bill Reiboldt, R-Neosho, presented resolutions from both the Missouri House and Senate before introducing owner Don Bedell, founder and chairman of the privately held Health Facilities Management Corp., which manages 31 nursing homes in Missouri and Arizona. Bedell serves as chairman of the Missouri Department of Conservation Commission.
“This building is a testament to the people who want to persevere after facing a lot of adversity,” said Bedell, noting that it took several dedicated people, including son Brad, to make the project happen.
Tracy Rowe, administrator of the operation, said the home will have security features, including 300 detectors for fire that are scattered throughout the building. If a fire should erupt, a monitor will indicate its exact location.
He also said employees will have pagers that notify them when doors open so that residents who walk out of the building will be detected.
The nursing home does not have a basement, but areas within in it have been designed to serve as shelters during a storm. The tornado that struck Joplin formed over Wildwood Ranch in west Joplin.
The new nursing home has more spacious areas for physical therapy, including a heated therapy pool, and more room for small group dining.
Rowe said the nursing home has a waiting list with 20 names on it.
“We are pacing ourselves,” he said. “We don’t want to bring in people until we are sure that we can take care of them. Our staffing will increase to 100 to 120 people, both full and part time.”
Another nursing center, Joplin Health and Rehabilitation Center, is undergoing an expansion. Fourteen new suite-sized rooms with kitchenettes are being added. Plans also call for the construction of another senior housing and an 80-bed, assisted-living center.