USNS Mercy to Care for Non-COVID-19 Patients in Los Angeles

By Terri Moon Cronk

In a matter of days, the Navy hospital ship USNS Mercy will sail from San Diego and dock in the port of Los Angeles to help lift the burden from local medical treatment facilities that need to focus their resources on patients affected by the coronavirus pandemic.

Hospitalman Katelynn Kavanagh, from Temecula, Calif., sanitizes medical equipment aboard the USNS Mercy. | Photo credit DoD/Navy Petty Officer 2nd Class Ryan Breeden

More than 800 medical professionals, assembled over the last few days, will embark on the Mercy, the Navy Rear Adm. Timothy H. Weber said during a March 23 press call. The doctors, nurses, corpsmen, other medical professionals and mariners will help communities hard hit by the COVID-19 pandemic, he added.

The Mercy normally handles combat casualty care, and its crew will not treat patients with the coronavirus, the Weber said. The ship and its staff will offer a broad range of medical and surgical support, with the exceptions of obstetrics and pediatrics.

Nearly 60 of the medical staff members are military reservists, Weber said.

“We are honored to answer the call in a time of need,” he added.

“Today is a big day for the Mercy, Navy medicine and our national response to the coronavirus,” said Navy Capt. (Dr.) John R. Rotruck, the ship’s commanding officer.

He noted that Los Angeles has seen some of the greatest impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic to date.

Photo credit DoD/Navy Petty Officer 2nd Class Ryan Breeden

Sailors assigned to the hospital ship USNS Mercy relocate patient beds on March 24, 2020.

“We will be ready on arrival to support [the Federal Emergency Management Agency] and state and local efforts to protect the health of the American people in this whole-of-government approach directed by the president of the United States,” Rotruck said.

“We are not treating COVID-19 patients, and we are taking proactive measures to ensure anyone coming aboard is properly screened,” Rotruck said.

The Mercy has infectious disease prevention measures that will be followed just as any hospital ashore would, he added.

An MH-60S helicopter attached to the “Blackjacks” of Helicopter Sea Combat Squadron 21 lands on the Military Sealift Command hospital ship USNS Mercy on Sept 25, 2019. | Photo credit DoD/Navy Petty Officer 3rd Class Harley Sarmiento

“We will be bringing relief to where we are needed most,” Rotruck said.

The Navy’s hospital ships are uniquely outfitted, for humanitarian and disaster relief, and those serving on the ships are highly skilled and highly trained, he added.

-This story originally appeared on It has been edited for

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