Mississippi Hospital Damaged in Tornado

Mississippi Hospital Damaged in Tornado

Hospitals are vulnerable to tragedies.

EDITOR’S NOTE: Dr. John Zelem, a physician advisor for three community hospitals, shares his thoughts on the tragedy that struck Rolling Fork, Mississippi Friday.

A powerful deadly tornado tore through Rolling Fork, Mississippi Friday and proceeded east for many miles creating an all too familiar scenario that occurs every spring. This is an area called “tornado alley” and it lives up to its reputation. Aside from the reported loss of 25 lives in Rolling Fork, there was another victim of sorts, and that was the Sharkey-Issaquena Community Hospital on the west side of Rolling Fork as it was damaged. Unfortunately, this not an uncommon occurrence.

Natural disasters such as tornadoes, hurricanes, fires, and earthquakes, do not selectively avoid hospitals and healthcare facilities. Two in particular come to mind although there are many:

  1. A large and devastating deadly EF5 tornado on the evening of Sunday, May 22, 2011, began just west of Joplin and intensified very quickly, reaching a maximum width of nearly one mile (1.6 km) during its path through the southern part of the city. The tornado devastated a large portion of the city of Joplin, destroying nearly 4,000 buildings including one of Joplin’s two hospitals. RACmonitor and Monitor Mondays reported on this tornado and continued reporting on the aftermath.
  2. The infamous “Tupelo Tornado” was an F5 tornado that struck the northeastern Mississippi city of Tupelo on 5 April 1936. With a death toll of over two hundred people, it was the fourth deadliest tornado in the history of the United States. The twister was part of a vast eastward-moving storm system that swept across the Southeast, spawning a dozen tornadoes on April 5 and 6. Perhaps most significant, the tornado heavily damaged the Tupelo hospital. In the immediate aftermath of the tornado, with hundreds of injured people in need of care, makeshift hospitals were set up at the Lee County courthouse, the Tupelo Military Institute, a movie theater, and several churches.

There is an irony here, hospitals and their ED’s are the mainstay for disaster relief, crucial elements in the disaster response chain, but what happens when they are a victim of the same tragedy. Natural disasters are broadly classified into many areas, climate-related (hydrometeorologic) or geophysical, and include earthquakes, volcanic eruptions, floods, hurricanes, tornadoes, wildfires, and epidemics.

During the last decades, the incidence of natural disasters is growing, which is mainly caused by an increase of climate-related emergencies. Also, the scale of disasters has expanded owing to increased rates of urbanization, environmental degradation, and intensifying climate variables 

Aside from all of the collateral effects of these natural disasters from loss of services, loss of technology, facility damage, and more, one must raise questions as to what other consequences might occur that take advantage of those tragedies such as price gauging, and similar occurrences. But does the audit incidence sky-rocket considering the destruction of medical records. Certainly this did not occur in 1936 as audits were not a major occurrence then, but certainly not absent in today’s world I imagine.

In conclusion, what are all of the over-reaching effects of natural disasters to our hospitals when hospitals are also vulnerable to tragedies?


John Zelem, MD, FACS

John Zelem, MD, is principal owner and chief executive officer of Streamline Solutions Consulting, Inc. providing technology-enabled, expert physician advisor services. A board-certified general surgeon with more than 26 years of clinical experience, Dr. Zelem managed quality assessment and improvement as a former executive medical director in the past. He developed expertise in compliance, contracts and regulations, utilization review, case management, client relations, physician advisor programs, and physician education. Dr. Zelem is a member of the RACmonitor editorial board.

Related Stories

Leave a Reply

Please log in to your account to comment on this article.

Featured Webcasts

Mastering Good Faith Estimates Under the No Surprises Act: Compliance and Best Practices

Mastering Good Faith Estimates Under the No Surprises Act: Compliance and Best Practices

The No Surprises Act (NSA) presents a challenge for hospitals and providers who must provide Good Faith Estimates (GFEs) for all schedulable services for self-pay and uninsured patients. Compliance is necessary, but few hospitals have been able to fully comply with the requirements despite being a year into the NSA. This webcast provides an overview of the NSA/GFE policy, its impact, and a step-by-step process to adhere to the requirements and avoid non-compliance penalties.

Mastering E&M Guidelines: Empowering Providers for Accurate Service Documentation and Scenario Understanding in 2023

Mastering E&M Guidelines: Empowering Providers for Accurate Service Documentation and Scenario Understanding in 2023

This expert-guided webcast will showcase tips for providers to ensure appropriate capture of the work performed for a visit. Comprehensive examples will be given that demonstrate documentation gaps and how to educate providers on the documentation necessary to appropriately assign a level of service. You will gain clarification on answers regarding emergency department and urgent care coding circumstances as well as a review of how/when it is appropriate to code for E&M in radiology and more.

June 21, 2023
Breaking Down the Proposed IPPS Rule for FY 2024: Top Impacts You Need to Know

Breaking Down the Proposed IPPS Rule for FY 2024: Top Impacts You Need to Know

Set yourself up for financial and compliance success with expert guidance that breaks down the impactful changes including MS-DRG methodology, surgical hierarchy updates, and many new technology add-on payments (NTAPs). Identify areas of potential challenge ahead of time and master solutions for all 2024 Proposed IPPS changes.

May 24, 2023

Trending News