USNS Comfort Returns to Baltimore After Humanitarian Mission in Haiti

Story Number: NNS100316-29Release Date: 3/16/2010 10:20:00 PM
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From Bureau of Medicine and Surgery Public Affairs

BALTIMORE, Md. (NNS) -- The Navy hospital ship USNS Comfort (T-AH 20) is expected to arrive at Canton Pier in Baltimore at 10 a.m. March 19, after completing humanitarian assistance and disaster relief operations off the coast of Port-au-Prince, Haiti, as part of the international mission, Operation Unified Response.

Comfort left Baltimore Jan. 16 and began supporting humanitarian relief efforts three days later, as earthquake victims were flown to the ship via helicopters once it neared Haiti.

Comfort anchored off the coast of Port-au-Prince Jan. 20 and immediately began receiving injured patients from local hospitals and international medical facilities.

Medical personnel aboard Comfort treated 871 patients and performed 843 surgeries during their mission in Haiti.

According to Cmdr. Tim Donahue, the ship's director of surgery, Comfort received patients every six to nine minutes during its first four days in Haiti and had more than 540 critically-injured patients on board within the first 10 days. During this initial phase of its mission, the Navy hospital ship ran 10 operating rooms at full capacity to care for injured Haitian, American and other foreign national earthquake victims requiring surgical care. This deployment marked the first time the ship reached full operational capacity, utilizing all operating rooms and beds, since it was delivered to the Navy in 1987.

At its height of relief operations, Navy Medicine deployed approximately 1,500 medical and non-medical personnel - many from the National Naval Medical Center in Bethesda, Md. - to both afloat and ashore units throughout the region in support of the relief mission in Haiti.

Volunteer experts from John Hopkins Emergency Medicine, Project Hope, Operation Smile, the Orthopaedic Trauma Association, National Nurses United and other non-governmental organizations (NGOs) augmented the ship's medical team with orthopedic trauma, surgical, nursing and anesthesia support.

During the ship's mission, Comfort 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.

"I am incredibly proud of the professionals who came together on short notice to make the deployment happen," said Vice Adm. Adam M. Robinson, Jr., the Navy's surgeon general. "Our medical team on board the Comfort - and on other ships providing support - performed admirably in an intense and dynamic situation. Medicine is a common language that all people understand, and it is a way to bridge differences."

U.S. Southern Command released Comfort from this mission Mar. 9 after determining that the need for Comfort's capabilities declined significantly during the final weeks of its mission. The ship made a brief stop in Norfolk March 13 to offload 500 members of the medical team and equipment. Two hundred members of the team remain on board and will return with the ship to Baltimore.

Comfort is crewed by about 70 federally employed civilian mariners who operate and navigate the ship while military and civilian medical personnel operate the shipboard hospital. When not deployed, Comfort is kept pierside in Baltimore where a small crew of mariners and Navy medical personnel maintain the ship and hospital in a high state of readiness. When needed, Comfort can be ready to deploy in five days.

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The Military Sealift Command hospital ship USNS Comfort (T-AH 20) arrives at Naval Station Norfolk.
100313-N-3165S-049 NORFOLK (March 13, 2010) The Military Sealift Command hospital ship USNS Comfort (T-AH 20) arrives at Naval Station Norfolk following a seven-week deployment to the U.S. Southern Command area of responsibility to provide medical care in Haiti as part of Operation Unified Response. The Comfort surgical team performed more than 800 surgeries. Comfort will return to homeport in Baltimore after a short port visit in Norfolk. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Ryan Steinhour)
March 14, 2010
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