On the 18th of March 2020, the president of the United States Donald Trump announced that two U.S. Navy hospital ships would be deployed to provide more hospital beds to those in need on the West and East Coasts of the U.S. Alongside other ideas of utilizing military resources, its usefulness could be limited. Which ones of the hospital ships will assist in treating patients?
U.S. Navy hospital ships amid COVID-19 pandemic
The two U.S. Navy hospital ships are precisely the USNS Mercy and USNS Comfort. It has been decided that The Comfort, based in the East Coast at Norfolk, Virginia, will depart to New York City. As of the Mercy, its homeport is San Diego, California. Both ships have to undergo maintenance to reach their biggest potential. The medical teams will be focused on dealing with trauma cases, not the COVID-19 ones.
The USNS Comfort
The USNS Comfort (T-AH-20) includes 12 fully equipped operating rooms, a 1,000-bed hospital, pharmacy, digital radiological services, and a medical laboratory, to name a few. There’s also a helicopter deck for air ambulances to land. The crew consists of 71 civilians and up to 1,200 Navy personnel. According to the Navy officials, the preparations for the ship will take weeks before it is ready to be utilized.
As for the ship, it is 894 feet long and 106 feet at its widest point and can reach speeds of up to 17.5 knots (over 20 mph). Originally, it was a super oil tanker converted to USNS Comfort in 1987. From that point, it was deployed to many regions for civilian humanitarian aid trips.
The USNS Mercy
The USNS Mercy (T-AH-19) is the Comfort’s sister hospital ship. Just like the USNS Comfort, the Mercy is fully equipped with 1,000 hospital beds, operating rooms, and more. It can be staffed with 61 civilians and over 1,200 military personnel. The ship is expected to depart to Seattle on the 23rd of March.
As it was with the USNS Comfort, the Mercy was a super oil tanker and converted to a hospital ship in 1984. The Mercy class hospital ships are the third largest ships in the U.S. Navy Fleet. It can reach speeds of up to 17 knots.
Hospital ships would, for sure, lessen the burden on civilian hospitals, freeing bed space on land. The problem is, hospital ships have to be staffed, while it is said that the U.S. health system is not ready for COVID-19 surge. There are already spotted shortages in some areas, and it could get worse.