Water — stat!

Maintenance crewmen at Southwest Mississippi Regional Medical Center, pictured with buckets used to transport water into the hospital from a well are, from left, Junior Stinson, Raymond Richardson, Stoney Brooks, James Hughes and Clay Griffin.

Neither rain, snow nor waterless pipes could prevent Southwest Mississippi Regional Medical Center from helping patients in need, as employees carried buckets of water drawn from a well throughout the hospital to clean and sanitize during McComb’s water crisis this week.

The hospital’s clinics closed ahead of the winter weather and remained closed when the water shortage hit.

“Water is for sure vital to the operation of the hospital,” hospital CEO Charla Rowley said, noting that cleaning and sanitation is impossible without it, and that many operations in the hospital could not function either.

She said she was proud of the hard work of the maintenance staff for keeping the hospital operating during the storm and outage, noting that the dietary department also played a huge role in the hospital’s operations.

“Our maintenance staff and dietary staff had to make do, and they did a great job. They have really worked double time to make sure we were sustaining the services we can and make it the same quality of care we hold ourselves to,” Rowley said. “Someone was constantly up and down carrying buckets of water or somewhere salting the walk ways for people coming in.”

Rowley said she had spoken to Mayor Quordiniah Lockley after lunch Thursday, who told her water pressure to the hospital would be returning by the end of the day. That was a relief, because even though the hospital had its own water well, it only operates in the main building and not the stand-alone cancer or cardiology centers.

The well could only “be used to flush toilets and that is about it,” Rowley said.

Throughout the winter storm and subsequent water shortage, Rowley said the city has kept the hospital abreast to the situation and worked tirelessly to keep the hospital supplied with water.

“I think that the city and the hospital did everything we could to make it as minor of an inconvenience as we could, but Mother Nature did her thing,” she said. “I really appreciate the city and the guys out there in a hole in a freezing weather dealing with a water issue. It was bad enough getting people in the hospital let alone outside.”

But with the closure of clinics and the cancellation of elective surgeries, Rowley said the hospital has taken a half-million-dollar hit a day, which could come back with some serious repercussions in the long run.

“It is definitely going to be another hit on us. I came into this position February 1st of last year, and we have had tornadoes, hurricanes, COVID, and now this freeze,” she said. “I am hopeful we will be able to reschedule those elected procedures because when people have appointments, they need to be seen.”

Rowley said many hospital staff members stayed the night at the hospital both Sunday and Monday night in anticipation for the weather, which helped out greatly on Tuesday when the roads stayed frozen over.

Chief Medical Officer Dr. Kevin Richardson said the lack of water could not stop the hospital from serving the community.

“We have processes in place to deal with hazardous weather conditions and water shortages,” he said. “All week our teams have been working hard to continue to provide high quality care. Even in tough times, bones were mended, hearts were healed and babies were born. Mother Nature’s challenges were not enough to dampen the grit of our frontline providers.”

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