Hospital Ship Returns From Sea to Serve Thousands

Capt. Kevin Robinson, USNS Comfort mission commander, fields medical and logistics questions during a press conference, October 29 (USN)

By The Maritime Executive 11-03-2017 10:02:23

On Friday, Puerto Rico secretary of public affairs Ramon Rosario Cortes reported that the U.S. Navy hospital ship USNS Comfort had treated 534 patients in the last 24 hours – twice the total number of patients that the ship treated in her first three weeks serving Puerto Rico, when she was out at sea. She arrived back at the pier in San Juan last Friday.

On October 5, two days after she arrived from Norfolk, Comfort departed again on a round-the-island tour in support of the disaster relief effort. AIS data indicates that she maintained a distance of about 10-12 nm offshore. During this voyage, Comfort treated about 190 patients, who were selected through a government-run referral process and delivered to the ship by helicopter or boat tender – an average of nine people per day. 

This system came in for criticism from hospital administrators and patients, who argued that it made the ship's 800 medical personnel and 12 operating rooms more difficult to access. Puerto Rico Governor Ricardo Rossello acknowledged difficulties with the referral system, and on Friday, he said that patients would be able to seek assistance from Comfort alongside the pier in San Juan, without going through a shoreside hospital first. 

As of November 3, Comfort has seen a total of more than 3,000 patients, according to statistics provided by Cortes. Incorporating numbers provided by the Navy, this indicates that over 90 percent of those served came aboard after Comfort returned to the pier.