Hospital ship USNS Mercy departs San Diego to care for non-COVID-19 patients in LA

The hospital ship USNS Mercy (T-AH 19) departed Naval Station San Diego on March 23, and is now underway to Los Angeles in support of the nation’s COVID-19 response efforts.

Photo: US Navy

More than 800 medical professionals and over 70 civil service mariners who embarked on the Mercy will care for non-COVID-19 patients in Los Angeles.

“This global crisis demands whole-of-government response, and we are ready to support,” said Capt. John Rotruck, Mercy’s Military Treatment Facility commanding officer.

“Mercy brings a team of medical professionals, medical equipment, and supplies, all of which will act, in essence, as a ‘relief valve’ for local civilian hospitals in Los Angeles so that local health professionals can better focus on COVID-19 cases. We will use our agility and responsiveness as an afloat Medical Treatment Facility to do what the country asks, and bring relief where we are needed most.”

The ship will serve as a referral hospital for non-COVID-19 patients currently admitted to shore-based hospitals, and will provide a full spectrum of medical care to include general surgeries, critical care and ward care for adults.

Civil service mariners operate and navigate the ship, load and off-load mission cargo, assist with repairs to mission equipment and provide essential services to keep the MTF up and running.

USNS Mercy’s primary mission is to provide an afloat, mobile, acute surgical medical facility to the U.S. military. Mercy’s secondary mission is to provide full hospital services to support U.S. disaster relief and humanitarian operations worldwide.

As Naval Today reported last week, Mercy and another hospital ship, USNS Comfort, will be part of the Defense Department’s response to the coronavirus pandemic.

As of March 24, the US Navy had 86 COVID-19 cases — 57 active-duty service members, 13 navy civilian employees, 11 navy family members and five contractors.

Over the past few days, the US has seen a surge in coronavirus cases. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), the nation could become a new epicenter of the pandemic.