Tornado devastation in Rolling Fork on Saturday, March 25, 2023. (Vickie D. King/Mississippi Today) Credit: Vickie D. King/Mississippi Today

Rolling Fork residents devastated by last week’s fatal tornadoes that destroyed the town’s main health care centers and damaged other parts of the state will soon have better access to doctors at a new field hospital.

Sharkey Issaquena Community Hospital lost power and had its emergency room “blown off” among other severe damages, said Charles Weissinger, a Rolling Fork resident and attorney for the Issaquena County Board of Supervisors. 

READ MORE: At least 21 killed in Delta tornadoes

Meanwhile the Delta Health Center based in Rolling Fork was “split in half,” according to the clinic’s Facebook page.

As a result, residents have been accessing a patchwork of medical care from vans to parking lots. By Friday, patients should be able to receive care at the field hospital set up at the Rolling Fork National Guard Armory.

“So many people were hurt,” said Weissinger, who was at his home with his 5-year-old grandson when the tornado struck. 

The rural community hospital has been struggling to stay afloat and was, as of September, seeking a buyer. It has continued to lose money over the years, even after pooling its resources with other small hospitals to buy supplies at a discounted rate.

Now, it’s missing part of its roof and its patients have been spread across the state in other hospitals or nursing homes. Mississippi Today has reached out to U.S. Rep. Bennie Thompson’s office seeking comment on whether federal money may be allocated to rebuild the decimated hospital. Thompson’s district includes the areas ravaged worst by last week’s tornadoes. 

Dr. Dominick Trinca, a family medicine doctor in the Delta, posted a photo to his Facebook page standing in front of the mangled Rolling Fork Delta Health Center. On Tuesday, the clinic said it was seeing patients in a tent in the parking lot. 

The University of Mississippi Medical Center and local partners were setting up tents at the Armory site, 19719 U.S. 61 in Rolling Fork, Wednesday with the plan to be open Friday. 

UMMC is coordinating with the state’s health department and emergency management agency. The field hospital will be the temporary home for the hospital and medical clinics for Sharkey and Issaquena counties.

The Mississippi Center for Emergency Services housed at UMMC dispatched first-responder support and triage teams to areas impacted by the storm since the tornadoes struck. On Monday, UMMC’s school of nursing started a mobile clinic in Rolling Fork to provide routine health care and give out prescription medications.

Patients have been able to visit with nurses in a van equipped with an exam room. The van will stay in Rolling Fork until the field hospital is fully operational. 

Delta Health Center staff will operate the field hospital. 

“There is a lot of work ahead, but we’re here every step of the way,” the health center wrote on its Facebook page. 

READ MORE: How to help Mississippi tornado victims

Mississippi Today reporter Devna Bose contributed to this story.

Creative Commons License

Republish our articles for free, online or in print, under a Creative Commons license.

Take our 2023 reader survey

Kate Royals is a Jackson native and returned to Mississippi Today as the lead education reporter after serving in the same capacity from 2016 to 2018. Prior to that, she was a reporter for the Clarion-Ledger covering education and state government. She won awards for her investigative work, including stories about the state’s campaign finance laws and prison system. She was a news producer at MassLive in Springfield, Mass., after graduating from Louisiana State University’s Manship School of Mass Communications with a master’s degree in communications.