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The Navy Ship Mercy Has Treated A Few Patients, Stands ‘Absolutely Ready’ To Take On A Lot More

The USNS Mercy after it arrived at the Port of L.A. on March 27. (Carolyn Cole/AFP via Getty Images)
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The Navy hospital ship Mercy has treated about two dozen patients since it docked at the port of L.A. on March 27.

The 1,000-bed floating hospital came to Los Angeles to treat patients who don’t have COVID-19, to ease the burden on the area’s hospitals, said John Rotruck, commanding officer of the ship’s medical treatment facility.

“It was better to have us here and ready in advance of any projected increase in coronavirus cases,” he told us.

The staff of roughly 900 ranges from neurosurgeons to cardiologists to even plastic surgeons. About one-third of the staff are non-medical, like cooks and IT specialists.

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So far, Rotruck says they’ve treated gunshot wounds, heart failure and pneumonia, among other things.

But the ship isn’t staffed to treat everything. For example, it can’t take care of children or perform open heart surgery. There are no OB/GYN services or chemotherapy.

Last week, doctors criticized the U.S. Navy ship Comfort, which is docked in New York City, for treating only a small number of patients amid that city's dire coronavirus situation.

But in L.A., Rotruck says he hasn’t yet had a lot of requests for the ship’s services from local hospitals.

“If the demand signals from the local hospital increases, we’re absolutely ready to take those patients,” he said.

L.A. County still has around 300 empty ICU beds.


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