JACKSON, Miss. (AP) — A mobile disaster hospital is on its way from North Carolina to Louisville, Mississippi, to help fill the gap after Monday's tornado heavily damaged Winston County's only hospital, a nursing home and medical offices.
The first 12 trucks carrying equipment left Friday, said Kirsti Clifford, a spokeswoman for the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services. She said six more trucks are being loaded.
The facility includes an emergency room, surgery unit, inpatient beds, an X-ray machine and a lab. Officials hope it will be up and operating within two weeks. Paul Black, interim administrator of Winston Medical Center, said debris must be cleared from the site and utilities connected before the hospital can start seeing patients.
For now, a mobile emergency room from the University of Mississippi Medical Center is providing care in the parking lot of the local Wal-Mart.
Black said Winston Medical Center will operate the facility, which will be set up on a four-acre paved site on Louisville's south end. He said that will help limit job losses among the roughly 120 full-time employees at the hospital and nursing home.
"We are going to retain as many employees as we can," Black said, saying insurance payments would also help to keep workers on the payroll.
Clifford said the deployment is expected to cost $233,000, which either the Federal Emergency Management Agency or Mississippi will pay.
"Since we've been designated a federal disaster area, FEMA helps carry the cost," said Dr. Sam Suttle, a Louisville physician who's been named Winston County's medical director.
The hospital could stay a year or longer. Officials are trying to decide whether to repair Winston Medical Center or build a new hospital, Black said.
"What we've been told is we can use the mobile facility for as long as we need it," Black said.
The facility is owned by FEMA but is housed in Mocksville, North Carolina, and maintained by Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center. Clifford said the last time the hospital was deployed was for the 2012 Democratic National Convention in Charlotte, North Carolina.
The hospital and local physicians are also trying to secure sites for other physician offices. The only undamaged medical facility is a storefront clinic on Main Street in Louisville's downtown
"We even hope to have a CT scanner," said Suttle, who said that would have to come in a separate mobile unit since it's not part of the hospital.