USNS Comfort Completes Haiti Mission
American Forces Press Service
PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti, March 9, 2010 The hospital ship USNS Comfort will leave Haiti tomorrow, as U.S. Southern Command officials have determined its crew has completed its humanitarian relief mission in the aftermath of the Jan. 12 earthquake that devastated the Caribbean nation.
Medical facilities and field hospitals in Haiti have assumed a greater role in addressing the health-care needs of Haitians, and the need for urgent, life-saving medical care steadily declined, officials explained.
"Over the last 10 days, we've seen over a 65 percent reduction in patients on board the [Comfort], as they have been appropriately transferred to local hospitals for follow-on care," Army Col. (Dr.) Jennifer Menetrez, Joint Task Force Haiti's command surgeon, said during a “DoDLive” bloggers roundtable March 4. The last patient treated for earthquake-related injuries aboard the Comfort was discharged from the ship on Feb. 27, Menetrez added.
The hospital ship began supporting humanitarian relief efforts in Haiti after receiving its first patients a day before anchoring off Port-au-Prince on Jan. 20. Over the course of seven weeks, the ship's U.S military and civilian medical personnel treated 871 patients, receiving one patient every six to nine minutes at the height of the recovery effort, officials said.
Comfort's medical staff also performed 843 surgeries aboard the ship during the mission, treating more than 540 critically injured earthquake survivors within the first 10 days.
The hospital ship ran 10 operating rooms at full capacity to care for injured Haitian and U.S. earthquake survivors requiring surgical care. Comfort's medics also treated U.S. and international military personnel transferred to the ship by physicians on the ground for surgical and nonsurgical care.
Volunteer experts from the Orthopedic Trauma Association, Project Hope, Operation Smile, National Nurses United, Johns Hopkins Emergency Medicine and other nongovernmental organizations 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 earthquake survivors aboard [the] Comfort," said 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," the general added.
Comfort's crew worked closely with Haiti's health ministry and health care professionals from the U.S. Agency for International Development, international relief organizations and nongovernmental organizations to secure follow-on care for patients in recovery.
By early February, as relief efforts in the areas near the earthquake's epicenter gained momentum and medical treatment facilities began or resumed operations in those areas, the numbers of patients with earthquake-related injuries arriving aboard Comfort gradually declined. By Feb. 28, Comfort was no longer treating patients with earthquake-related injuries, officials said.
Comfort is scheduled to return to its home port in Baltimore on March 14.
USNS Comfort previously deployed here for 12 days in April as part of Operation Continuing Promise 2009 -- a four-month humanitarian and civic assistance deployment to seven countries in the Caribbean and in Central and South America. During the Haiti segment of the mission, Comfort's medical staff treated 6,731 patients, performed 161 surgeries and filled 15,504 prescriptions.
(From a U.S. Southern Command news release.)