The Military Sealift Command hospital ship, USNS Comfort (T-AH 20), departed Naval Station Norfolk today for New York City in support of the nation’s Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) response efforts.
The ship will serve as a referral hospital for patients not infected with COVID-19, providing a full spectrum of medical care to include general surgeries, critical care and ward care for adults, while allowing shore-based civilian hospitals to focus on their medical care devoted to the treatment of COVID 19 patients.
“The entire Comfort team safely, efficiently and effectively completed their maintenance availability, readied the hospital for patients, moved aboard and readied the ship for operations in minimal time,” said Capt. Joseph O’Brien, commodore of Amphibious Squadron Six and the Task Force New York City mission commander. “The Sailors, Marines, and Civilian Mariners drawn from commands across the Hampton Roads area and embarked aboard Comfort will quickly integrate as we begin the vital task of Defense Support to Civil Authorities.”
Comfort departed Naval Station Norfolk with over 1,100 Navy medical personnel and support staff with the afloat medical treatment facility (MTF), and over 70 civil service mariners.
Comfort’s MTF is an embarked crew of medical personnel from the Navy’s Bureau of Medicine and Surgery responsible for operating and maintaining one of the largest trauma facilities in the United States.
“The gravity of the mission is understood by every person who comes aboard the ship,” said Capt. Patrick Amersbach, commanding officer of the MTF aboard Comfort. “We understand that our nation, specifically the people of New York, have requested our assistance and we are ready to respond. I’m so proud of our crew during this challenging time as they are leave their families and loved ones at home to respond to this national emergency to care for our fellow Americans.”
The ship expects to begin receiving patients 24 hours after arriving in New York City. All patient transfers will be coordinated with local hospitals, thus ensuring a consistent handoff of care between medical providers. Patients will not be accepted on a walk-on basis, and should not come to the pier with an expectation that they can receive care.
Comfort is operated, navigated and maintained by a crew of civil service mariners working for the U.S. Navy’s Military Sealift Command.
A converted San Clemente-class supertanker, Comfort was delivered to the Navy’s Military Sealift Command Dec. 1, 1987, and is the second of two Mercy-class hospital ships.
“The success of Comfort and how well we do our mission depends on the cooperation and the relationship between the MTF, civilian mariners and the command element,” Capt. Andrew Lindey, ship’s master aboard Comfort. “The leadership embarked aboard Comfort have been aligned from day one, and are working towards the common goal of ensuring the ship works as one team.”
USNS 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.
Military Sealift Command operates approximately 120 non-combatant, civilian-crewed ships that replenish U.S. Navy ships, chart ocean bottoms, conduct undersea surveillance, strategically preposition combat cargo at sea around the world and move military equipment and supplies used by deployed U.S. forces.
U.S. 2nd Fleet exercises operational authorities over assigned ships, aircraft, and landing forces on the East Coast and the Atlantic.