USNS Mercy Arrives in Los Angeles to Bolster Local Hospital System

USNS Comfort arrives at Berth 93, Los Angeles World Cruise Center, March 27 (USN)

Published Mar 27, 2020 6:26 PM by The Maritime Executive

The Military Sealift Command hospital ship USNS Mercy has arrived at the Los Angeles World Cruise Center at the Port of LA, her new home base for a mission to support the area's medical system.

While in Los Angeles, the ship will serve as a referral hospital for non-COVID-19 patients who are currently admitted to shore-based hospitals, and she will provide capacity for general surgeries, critical care and ward care for adults. This will allow more local resources - including ICUs and ventilators - to be used for treating COVID-19 patients

“The men and women of the USNS Mercy and the United States Navy are honored to be here in Los Angeles supporting FEMA, the state of California, county and the city in their ongoing COVID-19 relief efforts,” said Rear Adm. John E. Gumbleton, Commander, Expeditionary Strike Group Three.?

USNS Mercy is currently carrying Navy medical and support staff assembled from 22 commands, as well as a contingent of more than 70 civilian merchant mariners.

“This is important to me because we could sail in and this could be my family on the ship, my friend on the ship, any of my fellow Americans on the ship,” said Hospital Corpsman 3rd Class Alex Berry. “I take pride in my job. I want to make sure that we can provide the best care possible for anyone that comes on.”

USNS Comfort prepares to sail

This week, 120 Navy reservists reported to USNS Mercy's sister ship, USNS Comfort, as she prepares to sail from Norfolk to New York City. Comfort is deploying to provide support to the health care system in the greater New York City region. 

“Right now, medical centers are doing everything they can to help their communities,” said Lt. Derek Hinkley, a reservist from New Hampshire. “I see this mission as an opportunity to do what we can to help, in whatever way we can.”

The Navy Reserve Force says that it is being careful to ensure that it is not pulling medical professionals out of areas where they are needed in order to crew the Comfort and the Mercy. The reservists on Comfort's crew were selected from a pool of hundreds of volunteers from across the country. 

The need for aid is high. New York State has reported about 45,000 confirmed cases of coronavirus statewide as of Friday, including 6,500 hospitalizations and about 520 deaths. More than half of these cases were recorded in New York City. 

"With COVID-19 spreading quickly, our number one priority is expanding hospital capacity. All New York hospitals are increasing capacity by 50 pecent, some by 100 percent," said New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo on Friday. 

Dredging preparations

In anticipation of USNS Comfort's arrival in New York City, dredging contractor Donjon Marine was contacted last week and asked to begin dredging Manhattan Cruise Terminal’s Berth 4 to accommodate the vessel. Donjon hurried a dump scow out of drydock ten days earlier than scheduled, relocated two other scows from other ongoing projects and moved in the dredge Delaware Bay.

“That wasn’t all we had to do,” said Donjon Marine EVP and director of dredging Thomas Witte. “We needed expedited permits and authorizations from the federal government, state of New York, and the city in order to place dredge material in certain locations. We were able to receive them – in less than 12 hours from being requested to issuance."