US Navy Ship Comfort arrives in New York, providing a glimmer of hope
Two days after US President Donald Trump took part in a departure ceremony for the US Navy Ship Comfort at Naval Station Norfolk on 28 March 2020, the massive hospital ship sailed into New York Harbour to provide much needed medical help to a city overwhelmed with rising numbers of coronavirus cases. She arrived at 10h00 on 30 March 2020, to help relieve the pressure on the city’s hospitals that are overwhelmed with coronavirus patients. The Comfort’s 1 000 beds and 12 operating rooms will largely be used for non-COVID-19 patients, freeing up much-needed space at the city’s overtaxed hospitals. The ship is typically used to support military campaigns and humanitarian crises abroad, along with earthquake and hurricane relief. Most recently, it was deployed to Latin America, helping countries with inadequate health care systems. It was last stationed in New York City after the 9/11 terrorist attacks where it helped treat hundreds of first responders.
The ship has been around for over four decades and been deployed all around the world. It’s a converted oil tanker. The ship didn’t start out as a hospital ship but as a San Clemente-class oil supertanker called the SS Rose City. It was built by the National Steel and Shipbuilding Company in San Diego in 1976. The US Navy purchased it in 1987, along with another supertanker, with the goal of converting both into Mercy-class hospital ships. The Comfort’s sister ship, the USNS Mercy, is currently being deployed to the West Coast.
But as a converted oil tanker, moving patients around can prove difficult. The bulkheads used to separate the oil weren’t removed during the retrofitting, nor were hatches added to improve horizontal movement through the ship. Most of the movement of patients from one area to another must be made by going up to the deck first and then back down.
Painted white with several prominent red crosses, the ship’s look is designed to illustrate its purpose and protect its crew and cargo against hostile attacks. The Geneva Convention protects hospital ships if they carry no munitions or weapons; any country that fires on one is charged with an international war crime.
The ship is around 100 feet tall, which is the size of a 10-storey building. It has a deep draft, it displaces 70 473 tons of water and, in many ports, it has to stand at least a mile offshore. Over 894 feet long (272 metres), the Comfort is about the length of three football fields and can travel at a speed of 17,5 knots (20,1mph).
To receive patients, the Comfort has a large helipad, with the capacity to land large, military-grade helicopters. The ship also has the ability to accept patients from other ships docked alongside. Comfort can be fully activated and crewed within five days.
The Comfort has 1 000 beds, 500 of which are designated for minimal case needs, another 400 for intermediate cases, 20 for surgical recovery and 80 for intensive care patients. Though the Comfort will be docked while in New York City, it was designed with a large rounded hull for improved stability for surgeries and other intensive procedures that needed to be performed at sea.
But there’s a lot more to the Comfort than just beds. According to MilitaryFactory.com, “She is a complete medical facility that even includes a dental clinic, four x-ray machines and a CT scanner. A pair of oxygen-producing plants, an optometry lab and coolers to hold 5 000 units of blood are all part of her tool box. Comfort is a hospital that can sustain up to 2 000 people on-board, crew combined with patients, and supply much-needed water to both as she maintained a fresh water plant making up to 300 000 gallons of water a day. Other on-board services include a satellite lab and a central area for sterile causality receiving. A medical supply depot, along with a well-stocked pharmacy, are all included. Due to the nature of her work she has a large laundry operations and her own morgue.”
The USNS Comfort’s sister ship, the USNS Mercy, has already been deployed and moored in Los Angeles where it has been serving patients since Sunday, 29 March 2020. As positive COVID-19 cases continue to rise, New York City has already converted the Jacob K Javits Convention Centre into a temporary hospital and is setting up another field hospital in Central Park to help relieve the strain.
Source: The Verge and CNBC