Hospital ship USNS Mercy (T-AH-19) left Los Angeles today, seven and a half weeks after arriving at the California hot spot in the COVID-19 pandemic and 10 days after discharging its last patient.
The medical treatment facility (MTF) staff will leave 61 personnel behind to continue supporting state and local healthcare providers at skilled nursing facilities, at the direction of Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and U.S. Northern Command (USNORTHCOM).
“We came to Los Angeles to be the relief valve for local hospitals in the fight against COVID-19,” Capt. John Rotruck, commanding officer of the MTF staff, said in a news release.
“I am very impressed with how well the team came together on this rapid response mission, completing a wide range of high-quality medical procedures from orthopedic surgeries to interventional radiology. Sailors from across the country answered the call, forming a unified team focused on our mission to treat patients from Los Angeles. I couldn’t be more proud.”
Mercy has been at the World Cruise Center Terminal in the Port of Los Angeles since March 27, taking in non-COVID patients through hospital-to-hospital transfers. Though Mercy arrived in Los Angeles – and sister ship USNS Comfort (T-AH-20) arrived in New York City – amid concerns that local hospital systems would be overwhelmed with COVID cases and need additional capacity to support the high patient load, that need to lean on the hospital ship never materialized. LA-area hospitals ultimately only sent 77 patients to the ship over six weeks. The Mercy MTF performed 36 successful general, orthopedic and plastic surgeries, as well as interventional radiology, exploratory laparotomy and skin grafting procedures.
“We arrived in the port of Los Angeles at the request of the state of California and the city of Los Angeles in support of the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s whole-of-government response. I want to convey my appreciation for the hard work from those entities as they made it possible to navigate through this process so that we could arrive and quickly begin treating patients,” Rotruck said.
“I especially want to thank the crew aboard Mercy, most of whom have never worked together prior to embarking the ship. They came together as a team when called upon and focused on our mission of providing safe, high quality care with zero preventable harm to every patient who embarked this ship.”
Mercy will return to its homeport of Naval Station San Diego, Calif., and will remain ready for potential future tasking in support of the COVID-19 pandemic.