Memorial Hospital reflects on decade of growth

Memorial Hospital reflects on decade of growth
Hurricane Katrina raised health care dedication to a whole new level. (Photo source: WLOX)
Hurricane Katrina raised health care dedication to a whole new level. (Photo source: WLOX)

GULFPORT, MS (WLOX) - Wednesday morning, Memorial Hospital at Gulfport looked back at its Hurricane Katrina response and the many changes that have taken place since the storm in both remembrance and celebration.

Memorial Hospital kept its doors open as the hurricane roared ashore 10 years ago. Wednesday marked a solemn look back and a promising look ahead.

"We never closed our doors. We never turned anyone away," Memorial CEO Gary Marchand told the crowd. "The bottom line, Memorial's mission at that time was to do whatever we could do to take care of our patients, to take care of our community and to take care of ourselves."

Memorial Hospital lost power for just 30 minutes during Katrina. It emerged from the storm as the only fully functioning medical center on the Coast.

"The greatest natural disaster to hit the United States, and we were the hospital that was whole and left standing. Not only did we do it, but we did it well," said a nurse who was one of the people interviewed for a film about the Katrina response.

"You can see where the water line came. This is the railroad," said Bill Hertzog as he pointed at a large scale photograph of Katrina damage near the medical center.

Hertzog was on the staff when Katrina hit. The storm raised health care dedication to a whole new level.

"Even though our families are out there in the community, we're trying to get our houses back together, we still know that our number one job is to help the patients in the community of South Mississippi," added Hertzog.

"You can see it in their face, how much they love to be here, how much they love to help the patients. And that means everything. That's why this hospital is so great. It's the people that work here," said hospital board member Marvin Smith.

In the decade since the storm, Memorial has invested tens of millions of dollars in patient care and new technology.

A major expansion of the main patient tower continues, plus a $6 million neonatal intensive care unit. With the improvements come accolades.

"Gulfport is the number three place in the nation for health care in America. It's amazing," said Gulfport Mayor Billy Hewes after helping cut the ribbon on the new NICU facility.

Yet, despite all the bricks and mortar and high tech additions, hospital and community leaders recognize something more significant.

"It has beautiful buildings and state of the art, but you are this hospital. And I thank you for that," said Harrison County Supervisor Connie Rockco.

The new neonatal intensive care unit opens next week. Construction on the patient tower expansion continues. It is expected to be finished in early 2017.

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