Navy deploys USNS Comfort to support Puerto Rico disaster relief

More than 750 doctors, nurses, corpsmen and support personnel from across the Navy embarked aboard the hospital ship USNS Comfort in support of the U.S. military response to the hurricane relief efforts in Puerto Rico. (U.S. Navy file photo)

PORTSMOUTH, Va. – Approximately 250 doctors, nurses, corpsmen and support personnel from across Navy Medicine East embarked Navy hospital ship USNS Comfort, Sept. 27th, in support of the U.S. military response to the hurricane relief efforts in Puerto Rico.

An additional wave of personnel will embark the ship before its expected departure Friday, Sept. 29, 2017, bringing the total Navy Medicine staff to approximately 750. This will complete the medical manning needs to support the 250-bed ship capability specific to this mission as defined by the Department of Defense.

NME’s ability to rapidly augment medical and support personnel needed for a hospital ship deployment within 96 hours underscores Navy Medicine’s role as a medical readiness platform in support of the Navy and Marine Corps missions. Based on the nature of the medical mission, NME relies on medical personnel across its region spanning the eastern hemisphere.

The planning that goes into the selection of personnel is significant. Not only must the proper manning be achieved on the hospital ship, but it must be achieved in a way to minimize any disruptions to existing patient care at the shore-based command sending the personnel to the hospital ship.

For this particular mission, the medical personnel are coming from 11 different facilities, from Pensacola to North Carolina – the bulk from Naval Medical Center Portsmouth. Along with key medical personnel, ranging from pediatricians and surgeons to nurse practitioners and surgical technicians, the mix of personnel critical to support this relief mission includes experts in areas such as culinary services, administration, materials management, medical equipment repair and information technology.

Additionally, the personnel are called upon to quickly deploy, and leave behind their loved ones and their homes for an undetermined amount of time.

“We are a ready medical force,” said Navy Rear Adm. Anne Swap, NME commander. “The expeditionary nature of Navy Medicine uniquely positions us to deliver care on, above, below the sea and on battlefields, which includes responding when called upon to provide humanitarian assistance.”

NME is headquartered in Portsmouth, Virginia, and serves as Navy Medicine’s health care system in the eastern hemisphere, providing medical care to approximately 1 million patients throughout the eastern United States, Europe, Africa and the Middle East. NME also oversees the Tidewater Military Health System which brings together McDonald Army Health Center, NMCP and U.S. Air Force Hospital Langley. Plus, its public health activities extend globally. For more information, visit Navy Medicine East’s website.

Navy Medicine is a global health care network of 63,000 personnel that provide health care support to the U.S. Navy, Marine Corps, their families and veterans in high operational tempo environments, at expeditionary medical facilities, medical treatment facilities, hospitals, clinics, hospital ships and research units around the world.

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