USNS Mercy Leaving LA After Treating 77 Patients

The hospital ship USNS Mercy departs Naval Base San Diego in support of Pacific Partnership 2018, Feb. 23, 2018. Pacific Partnership, now in its 13th iteration, is the largest annual multinational humanitarian assistance and disaster relief preparedness mission conducted in the Indo-Pacific. Navy photo by Petty Officer 2nd Class Kelsey …
Petty Officer 2nd Class Kelsey L. Adams/U.S. Navy

The USNS Mercy, a 1,000-bed hospital ship sent to Los Angeles to help take pressure off hospitals — which officials predicted would be overrun by Chinese coronavirus patients — is departing on Friday after treating just 77 patients.

The USNS Mercy has been docked at Los Angeles Harbor since March 27, arriving just as the peak of the pandemic approached. Like the USNS Comfort, the ship was originally slated to lessen the impact on hospitals by taking on non-coronavirus patients, thereby freeing up beds in nearby hospitals anticipating a surge in coronavirus cases.

The 1,000-bed hospital came fully prepared with 800 crew members “12 fully-equipped operating rooms, laboratories, a pharmacy, [and] radiological equipment … becoming the largest hospital in the city,” KTLA reported.

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Nonetheless, the doomsday predications never came to fruition. The Mercy ended up treating just 77 patients, according to U.S. 3rd Fleet spokesman Cmdr. John Fage.

USNI News added the treatments “ranged from basic medical and surgical care to trauma care.” The last patient was discharged May 5.

“However, Los Angeles hasn’t been overrun with virus cases, and so the Mercy didn’t play a huge role as a safety net,” the AP reported.

“As of the end of April, the Mercy had treated a few dozen non-coronavirus patients for everything from heart and lung conditions to gastrointestinal problems,” the outlet added:

“Having successfully decompressed the health care delivery system in the Los Angeles region,” the Mercy will return to its home port in San Diego, said a statement by the Governor’s Office of Emergency Services.

Cal OES Director Mark Ghilarducci stated:

Our work to protect public health and safety is far from done but having the Mercy and its highly-trained medical personnel stationed in the most populous region of the state was critical to our ability to respond in the first stages of the pandemic.

Similarly, the USNS Comfort, the 1,000-bed hospital ship that spent a month docked at Manhattan’s Pier 90, departed April 30 after treating just 182 patients. The ship remained on standby to lessen the load on hospitals by treating non-coronavirus patients but later modified its policy, designating 500 beds to coronavirus patients in the U.S. hotspot of the Chinese virus. Despite that, the ship never came close to reaching capacity.

Other areas of the country are telling similar stories — preparing for a surge that never came.

A 250-bed field hospital set up by the Army in Seattle’s CenturyLink Field Event Center, for example, shut down in April after just three days. It never saw a single patient. Gov. Jay Inslee (D) said they requested the hospital “before our physical distancing strategies were fully implemented and we had considerable concerns that our hospitals would be overloaded with Covid-19 cases.”

The McCormick Place field hospital in Chicago, Illinois, is also gradually reducing its presence, taking down half of its 1,000 hospital beds as medical centers in the region did not reach capacity.

“State and city officials are winding down the alternate care facility they set up at McCormick Place, saying the extra space to treat patients is not needed now that the growth of COVID-19 is slowing in Illinois,” the Chicago Tribune reported.


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