The U.S. Navy hospital ship USNS Comfort (T-AH 20) is scheduled to depart Naval Station Norfolk, Va., Oct. 11 en route to South America and Central America where it will conduct an 11-week medical assistance mission working closely with host-nation health and government partners in Ecuador, Peru, Colombia, and Honduras.
The purpose of the deployment is to help relieve pressure on host nation medical systems partly due to an increase in migrants crossing their borders and provide care to the appropriate communities.
This mission marks the sixth time the hospital ship will provide medical assistance in the region and reflects the United States’ enduring promise of friendship, partnership, and solidarity with the Americas. Since first deploying to the region on a similar mission more than a decade ago, the hospital ship has visited 18 nations in the Caribbean, Central America, and South America. During those missions, military medical professionals worked with host nation and civilian partners to provide medical treatment to nearly 390,000 people, including more than 6,000 surgeries.
The ship’s crew will include more than 200 U.S. and partner nation military doctors, nurses, and technicians. In addition, about 60 medical and dental professional volunteers from non-governmental organizations will be on board to support the medical assistance mission. They will be joined by a smaller team of civil service mariners who will oversee the ship’s operation and navigation.
During the mission, USNS Comfort will visit Esmeraldas, Ecuador; Peru (port to be determined);
Riohacha and Turbo in Colombia; and Puerto Castilla, Honduras. Specific dates for each port visit will be announced several days prior to the hospital ship’s arrival.
As part of the planning for USNS Comfort’s mission, health ministries in each country will select patients with medical needs that can be evaluated and treated by the hospital ship’s on-board surgical services and capabilities. Other medical services will be available to individuals on a first-come, first-served basis at the USNS Comfort’s land-based medical sites.
Health services provided in this year’s USNS Comfort deployment include general surgery, ophthalmologic surgery, dermatology, medical evaluation and treatment, preventive medicine, dental screenings and treatment, optometry screenings, eyewear distribution, and public health. Medical capabilities aboard the hospital ship include surgical and post-surgical rooms, a CAT-scan unit, four X-ray machines, a dental suite, an optometry lab, a physical therapy area, two oxygen-producing plants, and a 5,000-unit blood bank.
During each visit, Comfort’s medical team expects to treat approximately 750 patients per day at each medical site on shore, and anticipate conducting up to 20 surgeries per day aboard the vessel.
A U.S. Navy hospital ship has the capacity to provide afloat, mobile, acute surgical medical facilities to the U.S. military, and is an optimal platform to provide hospital services in support of U.S. humanitarian assistance and disaster relief operations worldwide.
In the aftermath of a destructive earthquake near Port-au-Prince, Haiti in 2010, the ship deployed there, where it supported a large-scale foreign disaster assistance mission under the leadership of the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), treating more than 870 victims seriously injured during the disaster and performing nearly 840 surgeries.
The USNS Comfort mission demonstrates U.S commitment to the Americas and is part of a continuum of support provided by U.S. Southern Command (SOUTHCOM). SOUTHCOM-sponsored civic assistance and humanitarian missions are conducted in close cooperation with partner nations in the region as well as with U.S. interagency partners at the U.S. Department of State and USAID. Similar missions include Continuing Promise, New Horizons, Beyond the Horizon, medical readiness training exercises and the Medical Civil Action Program.
SOUTHCOM is one of the nation’s six geographically focused unified commands, with responsibility for U.S. military operations in the Caribbean, Central America, and South America.