Hospital Ship USNS Comfort Completes Relief Mission In Haiti

By Dialogo
March 15, 2010

The grandiosity of the USNS Comfort can only be compared with the greatness of his mission and the value of his crew involved in the noble mission of saving lives. Congratulations to all the wonderful performance and dignified professionalism. The hospital ship USNS Comfort (T-AH 20) departed Haiti March 10. The ship’s departure follows a decision by U.S. Southern Command to release the ship after determining her crew completed the humanitarian relief mission it was directed to conduct in the immediate aftermath of the Jan. 12 earthquake that devastated the Caribbean nation. The need for Comfort’s capabilities declined significantly during the final weeks of its mission as medical facilities and field hospitals in Haiti assumed a greater role addressing the healthcare needs of Haitians and the need for urgent, life-saving medical care steadily declined. "Over the last 10 days, we've seen over a 65 percent reduction in patients on board the [Comfort] as they have been appropriately transferred to local hospitals for follow-on care," Col. Jennifer Menetrez, Joint Task Force-Haiti’s surgeon told bloggers during a DoDLive bloggers’ roundtable March 4. The last patient treated for earthquake-related injuries aboard Comfort was discharged from the hospital ship on Feb. 27, according to Menetrez. Comfort began supporting humanitarian relief efforts in Haiti after receiving its first patients a day before anchoring off the coast of Port-au-Prince Jan. 20. Over the course of seven weeks, the ship's U.S military and civilian medical personnel treated 871 patients, receiving one patient every six to nine minutes at the height of the recovery effort. Comfort’s medical staff also performed 843 surgeries aboard the ship during the mission, treating more than 540 critically-injured earthquake survivors within the first 10 days. The hospital ship ran 10 operating rooms at full capacity to care for injured Haitian and U.S. earthquake survivors requiring surgical care. Comfort’s medics also treated U.S. and international military personnel transferred to the ship by physicians on the ground for surgical and non-surgical care. Volunteer experts from the Orthopedic Trauma Association, Project Hope, Operation Smile, National Nurses United, Johns Hopkins Emergency Medicine and other non-governmental organizations (NGOs) provided the ship’s medical team with orthopedic trauma, surgical, nursing and anesthesia support. “We are immensely proud of the contributions made by everyone who helped treat critically-injured earthquake survivors aboard Comfort,” said U.S. Air Force Gen. Douglas Fraser, Commander of U.S. Southern Command. “Their efforts saved the lives of many patients and helped everyone treated begin the important process of recovery. “Their rapid response and contribution to the international relief efforts in Haiti helped the country overcome an urgent medical crisis at a time when access to surgical care on the ground was very limited,” he said. During their mission, Comfort’s crew worked closely with Haiti’s Ministry of Health and healthcare professionals from the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), international relief organizations and NGOs to secure follow-on care for patients in recovery. By early February, as relief efforts in the areas near the earthquake’s epicenter gained momentum and medical treatment facilities expanded operations ashore, the amount of patients with earthquake-related injuries transferred to Comfort for care steadily declined. By Feb. 28, Comfort was no longer treating patients with earthquake-related injuries. Comfort is scheduled to return to its home port in Baltimore March 14. USNS Comfort previously deployed to Port-au-Prince, Haiti for 12 days in April 2009 as part of Operation Continuing Promise 2009 -- a four-month humanitarian and civic assistance deployment to seven countries (including Haiti) in the Caribbean, Central and South America. During the Haiti segment of the mission, Comfort’s medical staff treated 6,731 patients, performed 161 surgeries, and filled 15,504 prescriptions.