October 15, 2018 – U.S. Navy hospital ship USNS Comfort (T-AH 20) departed Naval Station Norfolk, Virginia, Oct. 10, on an 11-week medical assistance mission to South and Central America where personnel will work 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,” said Commander, 4th Fleet, Rear Admiral Sean Buck at the ship’s pier-side departure announcement. “The return of USNS Comfort is but one way the United States is honoring that promise. By working together with our partner nation security forces and civilian agencies, we achieve effective solutions to common challenges.”
Since 2007, 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.
“Comfort last deployed in 2015. I can tell you that those members of the crew who have participated in the past are thrilled to be a part of this latest mission and those of us who have never taken part in a Comfort mission, are extremely excited to be here today,” said Buck. He added, “The foundation of our successful cooperation is trust and shared values. We build trust every day as we engage with partners in support of different missions.”
The mission’s crew includes 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. 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. 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 onboard 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, ophthalmological 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.