The world’s biggest hospital ship, the USNS Comfort, will be leaving New York City this week, having treated 182 patients. The ship has 1,000 beds.
The ship was supposed to take on patients that didn’t have coronavirus to ease the strain of hospitals in the wake of what was expected to be an onslaught that hasn’t completely materialized. Crew members contracted coronavirus in the process.
Still, the idea was well-meaning, in that it’s better to be overprepared.
“In a perfect world, we wouldn’t have put a single person aboard this ship,” said Capt. Joseph O’Brien, who commands Norfolk-based Amphibious Squadron 6 and is commander of Task Force New York City supporting the COVID-19 mission. “We would have pulled up here, the hospitals would have had excess capacity and not needed us – and I told the crew that from the very beginning. Our job has been to take the pressure off the hospitals.”
“So 182 might not sound like a whole lot of people – and it’s not – but it was 182 people that got high-quality care here, and it was 182 beds that got freed up out in the city,” O’Brien said by phone from the ship Friday.
President Donald Trump said last week that the hospital ship would return to Virginia, and it’s now expected to leave the city by the end of this week. It was somewhat flattering to have this ship come to New York at all, but, even if it had the whiff of a publicity stunt, it’s great news that it is no longer needed.
The crew, especially, had the right attitude.
“The numbers were pretty much irrelevant to us. It was about the patient in front of us, and providing the greatest possible care,” [Capt. Patrick Amersbach, commander of the 1,100-member Medical Treatment Facility aboard the Comfort], told USNI News. Medical teams “didn’t worry about how many were coming aboard or what was going to happen later on down the road.”
“Their focus really was taking care of that patient – regardless if it’s 100 or 10 or one – to ensure that they got the highest quality of care possible,” Amersbach said.