OCTOBER 11, 2017—With its electrical grid wiped out by Hurricane Maria, Puerto Rico will have to rely on generators to produce power for its homes, businesses, nursing homes, and hospitals for months. One of those hospitals is Hospital Menonita in Caguas, Puerto Rico.
On October 6, however, the hospital suffered a generator failure, which endangered the lives of four critical care patients. Those patients, however, were medevaced to the Mercy-class Military Sealift Command hospital ship USNS Comfort (T-AH 20), underway near the coast of the Arecibo-Manati region of Puerto Rico
The medevac was undertaken by the amphibious assault ship USS Wasp (LHD 1) and USNS Comfort’s detachments of Helicopter Sea Combat Squadron (HSC) 22, the “Sea Knights.”
“We are a mobile platform that can respond to the greatest area of need or act as a strut to help the Puerto Rican health system,” said Capt. Kevin Buckley, commanding officer of the medical treatment facility onboard Comfort. “We are engaged and determined to relieve human suffering.”
The hospital ship was able to respond by coordinating with U.S. Health and Human Services and the Puerto Rico Department of Health, who engaged in a Medical Summit onboard Comfort immediately upon the ship’s arrival in Puerto Rico.
“The formation of a Medical Operations Center within the Joint Forces Land Component Commander (JFLCC) Joint Operations Center was determined as a critical need during the planning sessions,” said Capt. Kevin Robinson, mission commander aboard Comfort. “Today, this streamlined the flow of ordering Comfort to respond to a critical need to relieve pressure on the Puerto Rican medical community.”
USNS Comfort, with the assistance of Army Black Hawk helicopters, had medevaced critical patients from Ryder Memorial Hospital in Humacao, Puerto Rico two days prior, after its generator also failed.
USNS Comfort has treated 75 patients ranging from six months to 89 years in age and performed numerous procedures such as gastrostomy tube placement, colectomies, sacral-decubitus ulcer debridement, as well as treated for wounds, hernias and pneumonia.
USNS Comfort is part of the whole-of-government response effort and is assisting FEMA, the lead federal agency, in helping those affected by Hurricane Maria.