Comfort takes on Patients in San Juan
By Seaman Danny Nunez, Navy Public Affairs Support Element East
Docked well in view of the cityscape of San Juan sits the Military Sealift Command hospital ship USNS Comfort (T-AH 20) ready to help the people of Puerto Rico in any way possible.
A Disaster Medical Assistance Team (DMAT), consisting of dozens of medical personnel from the U.S. Health and Human Services and Comfort’s medical staff, has been stood up ashore to provide administrative and medical services near the pier prior to patient care aboard. Patients are screened and evaluated by the DMAT to determine if further treatment aboard the hospital ship is necessary.
“The Puerto Rican Department of Health along with the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, has determined that being in close proximity to Centro Medico is the best utilization of Comfort to help relieve pressure on the Puerto Rican healthcare system,” said Capt. Kevin Robinson, mission commander aboard Comfort. “We’re going to […] have a great opportunity to reduce human suffering. That continues to be our number one goal.”
Since arriving on Oct. 27, Comfort and the surrounding medical staging areas have provided care for more than 270 patients from around the hurricane-ravaged island.
“Comfort has enabled us to see many patients,” said Ronda Lacey, a Health and Human Services (HHS) team lead on the island. “I am so proud of the individuals here and from the Comfort who are here to help. It is an honor and a service to be here.”
These sentiments are shared by fellow Puerto Ricans who are equally happy with the level of care and treatment from the many government entities involved in alleviating the afflicted in Puerto Rico.
“Everybody is real good, everybody has treated us great, it is great,” said Madeline Landarau, a citizen of Puerto Rico. “I don’t have words to explain it.”
Comfort is a seagoing medical treatment facility that currently has more than 850 personnel embarked for the Puerto Rico mission including Navy medical and support staff assembled from 22 commands, as well as over 70 civil service mariners.
The Department of Defense is supporting the Federal Emergency Management Agency, which coordinates all federal assistance requested by the government of Puerto Rico to help those affected by Hurricane Maria.
Comfort’s primary mission is to provide an afloat, mobile, acute surgical medical facility to the U.S. military that is flexible, capable, and uniquely adaptable to support expeditionary warfare. Comfort’s secondary mission is to provide full hospital services to support U.S. disaster relief and humanitarian operations worldwide.