Hospital ship Mercy, with 1,000 beds, arrives in LA to ease health care strain amid crisis

Tribune Content Agency

LOS ANGELES — The hospital ship Mercy arrived at the Port of Los Angeles on Friday to offer assistance during the coronavirus crisis, which is expected to tax local hospitals.

The Mercy has roughly 800 medical staffers, 1,000 hospital beds and 12 operating rooms.

The ship will house patients who do not have COVID-19 in an attempt to free up regional hospital beds for those who do. Some patients who are already hospitalized in Los Angeles County will be transferred to the ship for ongoing treatment, port officials said Thursday.

Gov. Gavin Newsom said earlier this week that California will need 50,000 hospital beds for coronavirus patients, a significant increase from the 20,000 beds his administration had forecast last week. The Democratic governor said the state’s 416 hospitals were doubling so-called surge plans to 40% of their capacity, which includes providing 30,000 new beds across the system.

Newsom last week asked the Department of Defense to deploy the Mercy and two mobile hospitals to California to help care for the expected surge in hospitalizations of residents stricken by the novel coronavirus.

Although the ship is staffed with naval medical personnel, they will be working under guidance from the Federal Emergency Management Agency and local health authorities, said Capt. Dan Cobian, commander of Destroyer Squadron 21.

“Our role is really to work underneath the umbrella of FEMA and the state and local health authorities,” Cobian said. “We intend to be ready to receive patients the day after we arrive.”

Rear Adm. Tim Weber, commander of Naval Medical Forces Pacific, said the crew aboard the Mercy are serving a “higher calling.”

“The men and women of the Mercy, as well as all DOD staff, serve a higher calling to protect and defend this country,” Weber said. “With COVID-19, Navy medicine, as in any time our country calls, is delivering medical power to assist our communities in time of need.”


(Los Angeles Times staff writer Wigglesworth reported from Los Angeles and San Diego Union-Tribune staff writer Dyer reported from San Diego.)


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