Hospital Ship USNS Comfort Treats First Patients in New York

The U.S. Navy Military Sealift Command (MSC) hospital ship USNS Comfort (T-AH 20) treated its first patients on April 1 in support of the nation’s COVID-19 response efforts.

Local health officials, in coordination with the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), have established patient transfer protocols, with careful consideration to the safety and security of patients and medical care providers aboard USNS Comfort. Both civilian physicians and USNS Comfort physicians continue to work directly in concert, to provide and carry out patient care plans.

NEW YORK (March 31, 2020) - US Navy Sailors practice patient transfer from the pier onto the hospital ship USNS Comfort (T-AH 20) as they prepare to admit patients in support of the nation’s COVID-19 response efforts. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Sara Eshleman) 200331-N-EV253-1114
NEW YORK (March 31, 2020) – US Navy Sailors practice patient transfer from the pier onto the hospital ship USNS Comfort (T-AH 20) as they prepare to admit patients in support of the nation’s COVID-19 response efforts. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Sara Eshleman) 200331-N-EV253-1114

“I’m immensely proud of our Sailors, Marines, civilian mariners and medical staff for safely, efficiently and effectively getting Comfort to New York ahead of schedule when our fellow Americans need us most,” said Capt. Joseph O’Brien, mission commander, Task Force New York. “The ship is manned with professionals; it was no surprise that our team was able rapidly coordinate with local healthcare professionals and begin accepting our patients.”

Patients treated on Comfort are assessed upon need on a case-by-case basis and once identified, they are screened prior to transfer. Infection control procedures are strictly enforced aboard Comfort, just as any civilian hospital ashore. There are no anticipated costs to patients treated on the ship. This deployment of America’s hospital ship Comfort is an investment in health and wellness for America’s people.

While in New York, the ship is serving as a referral hospital for non-COVID-19 patients currently admitted to shore-based hospitals, providing a full spectrum of medical care to include general surgeries, critical care and ward care for adults. This allows local health professionals to focus on treating COVID-19 patients and for shore-based hospitals to use their Intensive Care Units and ventilators for those patients.

“High quality and safe patient care is the top priority for our professionals, and we are ready to go to work,” said Capt. Patrick Amersbach, commanding officer of the Military Treatment Facility aboard Comfort. “Our crew is predominately from Naval Medical Center Portsmouth as well as other Navy Military Treatment Facilities and Reserve Centers on the east coast, leaving their homes, families and friends behind because their nation needs them during this time of crisis.”

Comfort is a seagoing medical treatment facility that currently has more than 1,100 personnel embarked for the New York mission, including Navy medical and support staff assembled from 22 commands, as well as over 70 civil service mariners.

Comfort’s primary mission is to provide an afloat, mobile, acute surgical medical facility to the U.S. military that is flexible, capable, and uniquely adaptable to support expeditionary warfare. Comfort’s secondary mission is to provide full hospital services to support U.S. disaster relief and humanitarian operations worldwide.

The hospital ship departed Naval Station Norfolk on March 28. President Donald J. Trump and Defense Secretary Dr. Mark T. Esper were present at Naval Station Norfolk during the ship’s departure. The ship arrived in New York City on March 30.

The Navy’s other hospital ship USNS Mercy (T-AH 19) arrived in Los Angeles on March 27 to support the COVID-19 response efforts. The ship accepted its first patients on March 29.

U.S. 2nd Fleet is operating as the Maritime Command Element, East, for U.S. Naval Forces Northern Command (NAVNORTH), under U.S. Northern Command (USNORTHCOM) for Defense Support of Civil Authorities (DSCA) in support of the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), the lead agency.

USNS Comfort (T-AH 20)

USNS Comfort is the second of two Mercy-class hospital ships operated by the U.S. Navy’s Military Sealift Command (MSC). She was delivered to the MSC on Dec. 1, 1987.

The USNS prefix identifies them as non-commissioned ships owned by the U.S. Navy and operationally crewed by civilians from the MSC.

The Mercy-class hospital ships are converted San Clemente-class supertankers originally built in the 1970s by the National Steel and Shipbuilding Company (NASSCO). They were acquired by the Navy and converted into hospital ships.

The ships are designed to provide emergency, on-site care for American combatant forces, and also for use in support of Humanitarian Assistance and Disaster Relief (HADR) operations. Each ship contains 12 fully equipped operating theaters, a 1,000-bed hospital facility, radiological services, medical laboratory, pharmacy, optometry labs, CAT scans, and two oxygen-producing plants.



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