Panola Medical will re-open Marks hospital

Published 10:58 pm Tuesday, September 7, 2021

Panola Medical Center announced plans this week to re-open the Quitman County Hospital in Marks, which closed in 2016, leaving the county without a critical access medical facility and costing 99 jobs.

The  Quitman County Board of Supervisors voted Tuesday in favor of the plan. The hospital will have the capacity to provide emergency care as well as beds for acute patients, including those with COVID-19.  Since the Marks hospital closed almost five years ago, residents of that county have driven to Batesville or Clarksdale, each about a 30-minute drive for hospital services.

Manuel Killebrew, President of the Quitman County Board of Supervisors said he is “elated that the board, Delta Medical Foundation and Panola Medical Center in Batesville are forming a partnership to re-open the hospital. This means 75-100 good paying jobs will be returning to the county, and it goes without saying, we need a hospital close by to provide the medical services for our citizens.”

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Panola Medical Center was re-established by its acquisition from a bankrupt estate and has improved its bottom line, grown its services and become a partner with local industrial and government partners.  Quentin Whitwell, its CEO and chairman of the board said of the announced arrangement, “Serving our patient populations in the North Delta region is our mission. Providing exceptional care for better health is our driven passion.”

“By re-opening this hospital, the loss of jobs in the community will be reversed and the citizens of Marks will have renewed energy to grow the economy in the area,” said Senator Robert Jackson, who represents the State of Mississippi, District 11, which includes Quitman and parts of Panola counties. “I am pleased to have brought the Panola Med operators to the board and that this new relationship has been forged.”

“The practical care we give every day needs follow-up and ease of access to specialists that can tend to higher acuity levels. But having a launching point from our own hospital will save lives and create new outcomes for patients,” said Lonnie Moore, a local nurse practitioner who also owns the former hospital building, and the president of Delta Medical Foundation.

Quitman County has a racial makeup of 27.3 % whites, 70.9% blacks and 1.8 % others.  It has a median annual household income of $25,383 and a poverty rate of 35.6%, it is one of the poorest counties in the United States.  The 2020 Census data shows Quitman County population declined by  17.40%.  The county went from 8,223 to 6,792 residents living in this county.  This decline was the largest percentage of lost population out of the 82 counties located within the State of Mississippi.  

Recent data from the National Rural Accountable Care Consortium Quitman County 79th for health outcomes, 79th for health behavior, and 77th for health factors out of the 82 counties in Mississippi.  This data also indicates that the county struggles with health issues showing a rate of 58% of the adult population dealing with high blood pressure, 45% high cholesterol, 31% heart disease, and 17% of diabetes.

In recent years, Quitman County has shown glimmers of promise and resilience. In April 2021, the closed SuperValu re-opened as an independently-owned Jeffcoat’s Family Market.  In May 2018, the ribbon cutting was held for the opening of the newest Northwest Regional Amtrak station in Marks.  And, due to the county’s rich 1960s civil rights history; ties to four National Historic Native American Mounds, iconic blues and music artists, including the late great Charley Pride, and a National Wildlife Refuge.  Quitman County is becoming a nascent tourism destination. 

Having the Quitman Community Hospital back up and running will make a significant difference in the quality of life for the residents, help change the trajectory of the exodus of the county’s population, Whitwell said.