What to Know
- The USNS Mercy is a converted oil tanker with 1,000 beds and a range of medical capabilities
- The ship will be used to treated non-COVID 19 patients when it’s docked in the Port of LA
- The ship’s 800 medical personnel will help ease the burden on the region’s hospitals as they grapple with the pandemic
Southern California’s hospitals received some much-needed relief in the battle against the new coronavirus when an oil tanker that was converted into a floating 1,000-bed hospital arrived Friday morning in the Port of Los Angeles.
USNS Mercy departed Naval Station San Diego Monday and entered the Port of Los Angeles at about 8:15 a.m. to dock at the cruise ship terminal. Non-COVID-19 patients will be treated on the hospital ship, part of a plan to free up land-based hospitals to respond to the coronavirus crisis.
The ship’s medical crew includes Commander Edgar San Luis, of Long Beach.
“It feels like I’m coming back home,” San Luis said. “It brings me great joy to be a part of something of this magnitude, to help the city of Los Angeles. Being born and raised, in Los Angeles it brings it closer to home for me to serve the population of LA.”
There will be a gradual transfer of patients to the ship from land-based hospitals as needed.
At a midday news conference with the giant ship as a backdrop, Gov. Gavin Newsom thanked the administration of President Trump for its support and timely response to the state’s urgent medical needs. California reported a 26-percent increase in COVID-19 cases on Thursday.
“We are seeing a spike that we were preparing for,” Newsom said.
More than 4,100 people in California are considered PUI, persons under investigation, who are in the hospital system, but not formally diagnosed with COVID-19, Newsom said.
“Those PUIs are waiting for test results, but those test results are sometimes coming back six, seven, eight days later,” he added.
Mercy departed Naval Base San Diego Monday with more than 800 Navy medical personnel and support staff, and 70-plus civil service mariners who operate and navigate the ship, load and off-load mission cargo, assist with repairs to mission equipment and provide essential services to keep the medical facility running.
The ship will provide a full spectrum of medical care to include general surgeries, critical care and ward care for adults, according to the Navy. This will allow 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.
“This global crisis demands whole of government response, and we are ready to support,” said Navy 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.”
At full capacity, Mercy will be the largest hospital in Los Angeles.
“This will be a COVID-19-free bubble,” said Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti, who served as an intelligence officer in the United States Navy Reserve. “Every bed not taken in Los Angeles… will mean one more bed for the surge the governor spoke about. This truly is mercy on the water.”
The current USNS Mercy is the third Navy ship to carry the name, signifying compassion. The first was built as Saratoga in 1907 and served as a Army troop transport during World War I. It was renamed Mercy and converted to a hospital ship. Commissioned in January 1918, the first Mercy completed four round trips to France and carried nearly 2,000 casualties. The second Mercy was commissioned in August 1944.
The current nearly 900-foot long ship was delivered to the US Navy in November 1986. It was deployed for service in Operation Desert Shield in August 1990.
Originally built as the oil tanker USS Worth, the converted hospital ship has 11 general purpose operating suites, blood bank capacity of 5,000 units, 15 patients wards and 80 intensive care beds. The hospital ships also have a CT scanner and radiology suites.