USNS Comfort Navy Hospital Ship Heading to Hurricane-Stricken Puerto Rico

September 27, 2017 Updated: January 30, 2018

The naval hospital ship the USNS Comfort is headed to Puerto Rico.

The announced deployment of the ship was part of a package that included an increase in federal and military aid for the island, still in the early stages of recovery from Hurricane Maria.

The Military Times reported that a commander will be put in place to lead the increased military rescue effort on the island. The Joint Chiefs of Staff are putting together a sustained force to help the U.S. commonwealth territory. The military has plans to send Land Component Commander – Forward to coordinate the efforts from the ground in Puerto Rico. He or she is expected to arrive very soon.

The USNS Comfort will aid in the effort with its 1,000 beds, 12 operating rooms, a CT scan, and radiology capabilities. On Tuesday the Navy said the ship would be ready in 96 hours.

Preparing the ship takes time since qualified staff have to be transported to the ship, and the ship has to be readied for the journey. The ship also has to be outfitted with medical and staff supplies.

Lt. Cmdr. Matthew Allen said via Military Times that it would take five days for the ship to arrive once it departs from port in Norfolk, Virginia.

The USNS Comfort will join two other ships already deployed for rescue and aid operations in Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands, and Dominica.

The government is also getting air traffic communications systems back in place so that an increasing number of planes can land and depart from the island carrying needed aid.

The USNS Comfort is operated by a civilian crew. It can hold up to 1,215 Navy medical personnel, Task & Purpose reported.

According to a Navy web page dedicated to the ship, it is a “Level III facility capable of providing resuscitation and stabilization care; initial wound and basic surgery; and postoperative treatment.”

The ship’s primary purpose is to provide medical support to deployed members of the Marines, Army, and Air Force who are land based, along with military forces at sea. Mobile hospital function for disaster and humanitarian relief is a secondary function.