KEY POINTS

  • The ship will not treat victims of the coronavirus but free up hospitals for the purpose
  • The USNS Mercy is a fully equipped hospital with a highly trained crew
  • Hospital ships have been deployed to the eastern and western seaboards
  • The  ships are crewed by active-duty military personnel and civilians 

With the COVID-19 pandemic raging through their city, the citizens of Los Angeles can sleep a little better at night. The USNS Mercy was deployed to LA to help lessen the burden faced by land-based hospitals as the number of coronavirus patients grows by the hour. On Sunday, the ship began receiving its first patients.  

It was initially believed that the ship might act as a floating quarantine, but any such thoughts have been laid to rest. Patients treated on the ship will not be virus-related. According to a report by Fox, the Mercy will house patients requiring general surgery, critical and wound care. This will allow traditional hospitals and staff to focus on caring for victims of the novel coronavirus. 

The Mercy, which is usually stationed in San Diego, was deployed to Los Angeles by President Trump, at the request of California Gov. Gavin Newsom as an effective method to provide care for patients requiring medical services as the number of virus cases exponentially multiplies in the region. The ship will not be the ultimate solution to the pandemic, but it may provide a decent foothold to start with. A second ship, the USNS Comfort, was deployed to New York to offer similar services. 

USNS Mercy Supplies of bottled water wait to be loaded into the San Diego-based hospital ship USNS Mercy as it prepares for possible deployment to typhoon-stricken areas of the Philippines from its port in San Diego, November 15, 2013. Photo: REUTERS/Mike Blake

These are not your average ships. The Mercy on its own has about 1,000 beds and is crewed by more than 800 sailors, doctors, surgeons and other personnel. It has 12 fully equipped operating rooms, self-contained laboratories, a pharmacy, and its own radiological equipment. It is essentially a floating city explicitly dedicated to medical needs. Ships of this nature are typically deployed during wartime to provide combat medicine. 

A spokesperson for the U.S. Navy told the International Business Times that these ships offer the best when it comes to medical care. They are manned by active military sailors and civil service maritime individuals that are highly qualified and capable. In these unsettling times, small miracles like this can make the difference between having hope and being completely lost.