April 1, 2020 – The hospital ship USNS Comfort (T-AH 20) treated her first patients Apr. 1 in support of the nation’s COVID-19 response efforts.
Local health officials, in coordination with the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), have established patient transfer protocols, with careful consideration to the safety and security of patients and medical care providers aboard USNS Comfort. Both civilian physicians and USNS Comfort physicians continue to work directly in concert, to provide and carry out patient care plans.
“I’m immensely proud of our Sailors, Marines, civilian mariners and medical staff for safely, efficiently and effectively getting Comfort to New York ahead of schedule when our fellow Americans need us most,” said Capt. Joseph O’Brien, mission commander, Task Force New York. “The ship is manned with professionals; it was no surprise that our team was able rapidly coordinate with local healthcare professionals and begin accepting our patients.”
Patients treated on Comfort are assessed upon need on a case-by-case basis and once identified, they are screened prior to transfer. Infection control procedures are strictly enforced aboard Comfort, just as any civilian hospital ashore. There are no anticipated costs to patients treated on the ship. This deployment of America’s hospital ship Comfort is an investment in health and wellness for America’s people.
While in New York, the ship is serving as a referral hospital for non-COVID-19 patients currently admitted to shore-based hospitals, providing a full spectrum of medical care to include general surgeries, critical care and ward care for adults. This allows local health professionals to focus on treating COVID-19 patients and for shore-based hospitals to use their Intensive Care Units and ventilators for those patients.
“High quality and safe patient care is the top priority for our professionals, and we are ready to go to work,” said Capt. Patrick Amersbach, commanding officer of the Military Treatment Facility aboard Comfort. “Our crew is predominately from Naval Medical Center Portsmouth as well as other Navy Military Treatment Facilities and Reserve Centers on the east coast, leaving their homes, families and friends behind because their nation needs them during this time of crisis.”
Comfort is a seagoing medical treatment facility that currently has more than 1,100 personnel embarked for the New York mission, including Navy medical and support staff assembled from 22 commands, as well as over 70 civil service mariners.
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.
U.S. 2nd Fleet is operating as the Maritime Command Element, East, for U.S. Naval Forces Northern Command (NAVNORTH), under U.S. Northern Command for Defense Support of Civil Authorities in support of the Federal Emergency Management Agency, the lead agency.