UMMC staffers arrive with beds to be used for the COVID-19 field hospital currently being set up in the basement of Parking Garage B, Thursday, Aug. 12, 2021. Credit: Vickie D. King/Mississippi Today

The University of Mississippi Medical Center will open a second field hospital in one of its parking garages, another attempt at propping up a hospital system on the verge of collapse due to a surge of COVID-19 patients. 

Samaritan’s Purse, an evangelical Christian humanitarian aid organization, will build and staff the field hospital. It will contain 32 patient beds, with five of them being ICU beds. None of the 50 or so beds in the field hospital UMMC opened on Friday are ICU level. 

Franklin Graham, president of Samaritan’s Purse and son of the late Christian evangelist Billy Graham, tweeted a picture Sunday morning of three loaded trucks and trailers en route to Mississippi. 

This is the latest development in a period where MEMA is seeking out any help it can get from the federal government and the private sector to get Mississippi hospitals staffing that is desperately needed. 

Over the past week, Mississippi broke its single-day COVID-19 case record three times. On Wednesday, Dr. Alan Jones, UMMC associate vice chancellor for clinical affairs, said that “failure of the hospital system in Mississippi” would occur within 5-10 days if the rate of hospitalizations did not subside. It has not.

The staffing crisis at UMMC is so dire that the hospital has enlisted the help of second year medical student volunteers to keep the original field hospital operating. The volunteers are not treating patients, but transporting them to and from the field hospital, as well as other upkeep duties like bringing meals and changing bed linens. 

PHOTOS: A look inside UMMC’s parking garage field hospital.

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Will Stribling covered healthcare and breaking news for Mississippi Today.