The U.S. Navy’s Mercy-class Military Sealift Command hospital ship USNS Comfort (T-AH 20) in San Juan, Puerto Rico, received five critical patients around 8 p.m. Oct. 4, from Ryder Memorial Hospital in Humacao, Puerto Rico, after its generator failed.
The possibility of hospitals in Puerto Rico failing due to running on emergency generators for extended lengths of time had been planned for by Comfort, the Federal Emergency Management System (FEMA) and other Federal and local agencies.
Patients were medevaced by the Sea Knights of Navy Helicopter Sea Squadron (HSC) 22 and Army Blackhawks.
“Working with the Army and the Hospital, we were able to reduce transport times for critically ill patients,” said Lt. Cmdr. Christopher “Harm” Perry, a dual-designated emergency physician and naval aviator aboard Comfort who landed the MH-60S with patients. “This is the mission we have all been training for.”
The Army Blackhawks, who are scheduled to conduct day landing qualifications on Comfort, transferred patients to the Sea Knights at a nearby landing zone in San Juan.
Comfort is part of the whole-of-government response effort and is assisting FEMA, the lead federal agency, in helping those affected by Hurricane Maria.
Comfort is a seagoing medical treatment facility that currently has more than 800 personnel embarked for the Puerto Rico mission including Navy medical and support staff assembled from 22 commands, as well as over 70 civil service mariners.
The hospital ship has one of the largest trauma facilities in the United States and is equipped with four X-ray machines, one CT scan unit, a dental suite, an optometry lens laboratory, physical therapy center, pharmacy, angiography suite and two oxygen-producing plants.
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.