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The Navy’s Hospital Ship In LA Has Few Patients, And It’s Now Battling COVID-19 Among Crewmembers

 April 20, 2020 at 11:13 AM PDT

Speaker 1: 00:00 The Navy hospital ship mercies in Los Angeles to try to relieve the burden on the area's medical facilities. It's accepting only patients who don't have covert 19 and has treated a few dozen patients so far, but now it's dealing with a growing number of coronavirus cases among members of its own crew. Emily Elena Dugdale reports for the American Homefront project. The thousand bed bloating hospital pulled into the port of LA in late March and was greeted by grateful politicians, including California governor Gavin Newsome. Speaker 2: 00:34 These men and women were quite literally called up a few days ago. Came from hospitals all over the state of California and the region. Speaker 1: 00:41 Normally the massive ship docks in San Diego, but it moved quickly up the coast. Speaker 3: 00:46 We activated the ship within five days of getting the call. Speaker 1: 00:49 John road truck is the commanding officer of the ship's medical treatment facility. He says the stop of roughly 900 people includes cooks, lab techs, and lots of doctors, Speaker 3: 00:59 general surgeons, neurosurgeon, plastic surgeon. Speaker 1: 01:02 The ship is only treating patients who have tested negative. For Copa 19 the idea was to ease the burden on local hospitals. Nearly a dozen have sent patients to the mercy SENSIT arrived so far. Road truck says they've treated patients for gunshot wounds, heart failure and pneumonia, but the ship isn't staffed to treat everything. For example, it can't take care of children or perform open heart surgery. The deployment of the mercy is open ended and not restricted to LA or cogliano is a professor of history at Campbell university and a former merchant Marriner. He says one of the best things about this ship because their mobility, their ability to steam at 17 and a half knots and all of a sudden leave Los Angeles and be in San Francisco the next day or Seattle two days from then. Doctors recently criticized the U S Navy ship comfort, which is docked in New York city for treating only a small number of patients with hospitals overloaded with COBIT 19 cases, but in LA John road truck says he hasn't yet had a lot of requests for the ship services. Speaker 3: 02:05 If the demand signal from the local hospitals increases, we're absolutely ready to take those patients. Speaker 1: 02:10 LA County still has hundreds of ICU beds. The Navy says the ship stands ready to pivot to caring for coven 19 patients if needed. Speaker 3: 02:18 I dearly hope it does not. Speaker 1: 02:20 That's Kaiser Permanente senior vice president bill Caswell. His hospitals have sent a handful of patients to the mercy and he says a switch to COBIT 19 patients only on board would signal the worst case scenario that the hospital system can't handle the virus. But castle says luckily the curve is flattening a little in LA, Speaker 3: 02:40 a low trend and fewer patients on the mercy might be one of those mixed blessings. Speaker 1: 02:44 While the ship isn't accepting. Patients with [inaudible] 19 there happen a string, a positive test results among members of the crew. Several crew members and those that had contact with them have been isolated off ship, but former Marriner som or cogliano a ship isn't designed to deal with the virus. Speaker 4: 03:02 The issue with doing that on board a hospital ship is fairly significant because hospital ships are basically floating communities. They produce their own water, they produce their own. Uh, air Speaker 1: 03:11 Caswell says he's still confident it's a safe place for patients. A Navy spokesman says they're following protocols and it hasn't affected their ability to take on new patients in Los Angeles. I'm Emily Elena Dugdale. This story was produced by the American Homefront project, a public media collaboration that reports on American military life and veterans funding comes from the corporation for public broadcasting. Speaker 5: 03:38 [inaudible].

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The Navy hospital ship Mercy is in Los Angeles to relieve the burden on the area's medical facilities. But it’s dealing with a growing number of coronavirus cases among members of its crew.
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