MAYPORT, Fla. (NNS) -- Hospital ship USNS Comfort (T-AH 20) completed its mission and will depart the Joint Task Force-Haiti area of operations March 10.
Over the course of seven weeks, the ship's U.S military and civilian medical personnel treated 871 patients, receiving at the height of the recovery effort one patient every six to nine minutes. But now, thanks to more field hospitals ashore and fewer patients in need of specialized care, the ship has not had patients on board for more than a week.
Comfort departed its homeport in Baltimore Jan. 16, and arrived three-and-a-half days later and immediately began supporting humanitarian relief efforts in Haiti. Prior to anchoring off the coast of Port-au-Prince Jan. 20, Comfort was already receiving patients in transit via airlift. During portions of the relief effort, nearly 1,300 medical personnel from the U.S. military and various non governmental organizations (NGOs) were embarked and treating earthquake survivors.
Medical personnel aboard Comfort performed 843 surgeries during their mission in Haiti. According to the ship's Director of Surgery, U.S. Navy Cmdr. Tim Donohue, Comfort had more than 540 critically injured patients on board within the first 10 days. During the initial phase of its mission, the ship ran 10 operating rooms at full capacity to care for severely injured earthquake survivors. The ships medical crew also delivered nine infants during the relief mission.
Patients treated aboard Comfort included injured Haitian and U.S. earthquake survivors, as well as U.S. and international military personnel transferred to the ship by physicians on the ground for surgical and non-surgical care.
Volunteer experts from the Orthopedic Trauma Association, Project Hope, Operation Smile, United Nations Nurses, John Hopkins Emergency Medicine and other NGOs provided the ship's medical team with orthopedic trauma, surgical, nursing and anesthesia support.
"We are immensely proud of the contributions made by everyone who helped treat critically-injured survivors aboard Comfort," said U.S. Air Force Gen. Douglas Fraser, commander of U.S. Southern Command. "Their efforts saved the lives of many patients and helped everyone treated begin the important process of recovery. Their rapid response and contribution to the international relief efforts in Haiti helped the country overcome an urgent medical crisis at a time when access to surgical care on the ground was very limited."
By early February, as relief efforts increased and medical treatment facilities ashore expanded in their ability to treat more patients and provide greater care, the amount of earthquake victims requiring transit to Comfort naturally declined. Comfort's last patient was transferred for follow-on care to a recovery facility in Haiti Feb. 27.
During the mission, the ship worked closely with Haiti's Ministry of Health and health care professionals from the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), international relief organizations and NGOs to secure follow-on care for patients in recovery.
While deployed for Operation Unified Response, U.S. Naval Forces Southern Command (NAVSO) had operational control of all maritime assets in the U.S. Southern Command (SOUTHCOM) region. As the Navy component command of SOUTHCOM, NAVSO's mission is to direct U.S. naval forces operating in the Caribbean, Central and South American regions and interact with partner nation navies within the maritime environment. In support of Operation Unified Response, NAVSO is tasked to coordinate the U.S. Navy's response to disaster relief in Haiti following a 7.0 magnitude earthquake Jan. 12. The focus of Operation Unified Response is to alleviate the suffering of survivors and support humanitarian relief efforts.
For more news from Commander, U.S. Naval Forces Southern Command, visit www.navy.mil/local/cusns/.