Courier Staff Writer
St. Joseph Hospital is now an empty shell.
Suzie Wood, executive director of development at Ottumwa Regional Health Center, said the perimeter of St. Joe’s is secured by a fence, and the entire interior has been cleared out.
“They’ve cleaned out all of the medical records and any other storage,” she said.
ORHC has also started the bidding process for asbestos abatement.
“It’s an old building, so asbestos is in the walls, it’s in the flooring,” Wood said. “Once it starts crumbling, decaying or falling apart, or when you start hammering into the walls — the asbestos is now out.”
She said there is no way to save the building.
“We have gone through that process and had several engineers come out and take a look, but there’s no possible way to save it,” she said.
Once the contract for asbestos abatement is secured and the 16 active and non-active antennas have been removed from the roof, the hospital will begin the bidding process for demolition.
“But we will not be imploding the building,” she said. “First they’ll take down the inside. Then it will be a few weeks’ process to take the outside down. When we start doing it, people won’t even realize it because it starts on the inside. It’s right in the middle of a residential area, so imploding it is not an option because of all the dust, pollution and broken windows.”
Once the new communications tower is erected, the antennas for 911, city, county and ORMICS will be moved.
“The process may take awhile,” she said. “We’re just waiting for whoever is putting the new tower up to get that done. We’re not in any hurry. Those are key communication antennas up there, so we’re certainly not going to do anything until they’re removed.”
She doesn’t know the cost of demolition yet, though several quotes have come through.
“They’ve been a very wide range,” she said. “It could be six to seven figures.”
A week ago, all of the items from the time capsule opened last July, as well as a few more items found when cleaning out the hospital, were donated to the Wapello County Historical Museum and are currently on display.
Wood also said a couple hundred people have purchased bricks from St. Joe’s.
“As soon as the hospital begins its demolition, we’ll be removing bricks and cleaning them so we can give them to folks who have purchased them,” she said.
Those wanting to purchase a brick, which will each cost $5, can call the hospital at 641-684-2300 and ask for Wood. All money raised from the sales will go to the American Cancer Society.
Several of the bricks purchased will be donated back to ORHC to be used as either a walkway leading up to the front doors or in a garden area.
“We’ve also saved the chapel doors that had stained glass in them,” Wood said. “They’re going to be part of the chapel we have here in the hospital. And there are other stained glass pieces we removed when we had the open houses there that people have purchased. Some are so fragile that even when we try to remove them, they’ll break.”
The hospital also contained old walkers, wheelchairs, canes, gurneys and more that can no longer be used by ORHC since they’re outdated.
“We’ve donated them to a Haiti project we have going on,” she said. “Through our hospital corporation, RegionalCare Hospital Partners, we’ve partnered with a physician in Nashville, and we’re building a 40-bed hospital just outside of Port-au-Prince.”
While there have been several speculations about what the property will be used for after St. Joe’s is removed, Wood said nothing has been solidified yet.