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USNS Mercy Arrives in 7th Fleet AOR to Aid in Tsunami Relief Efforts

Navy NewsStand

Story Number: NNS050116-01
Release Date: 1/16/2005 5:01:00 PM

From U.S. 7th Fleet Public Affairs

YOKOSUKA, Japan (NNS) -- The San Diego-based hospital ship USNS Mercy (T-AH 19) arrived in the U.S. 7th Fleet area of responsibility Jan. 16 as part of Operation Unified Assistance relief efforts following the devastating earthquake and tsunami that struck the region Dec. 26.

Mercy, which departed San Diego Jan. 5, is a flexible platform, uniquely capable of supporting medical needs ashore. The ship will remain postured to render aid in the region as long as needed, in support of Commander, U.S. 7th Fleet's goal of delivering responsive, short-term readiness.

"Because of the widespread devastation and the increased potential for pandemic disease, the Mercy has been specifically outfitted with special medical equipment and a robust multi-specialized medical team," said Capt. Charles Baxter, U.S. 7th Fleet surgeon. "Relief priorities are still being defined in the tsunami affected areas. We envision that the Mercy can serve as an enabling platform [through which] military and non-government organizations can coordinate relief efforts."

The Navy has deployed Mercy in an imaginative way, utilizing a creative approach to provide the type and level of care that will be needed to aid the tsunami victims. For example, Mercy's medical staff will be augmented with a humanitarian assistance crew, staffed significantly by nongovernmental organizations and people with significant medical capability who can provide relief in other forms.

Because of the nature of this disaster, Mercy is prepared to treat cases of infectious diseases, dehydration and malnutrition. The ship's hospital facility will be initially staffed to support 250 patients. The number of patient care beds can be expanded up to 1,000 with additional medical staff, if necessary. Equipment and supplies will be available to treat a wide variety of patients from young children to the elderly.

Mercy has 12 operating rooms, but it is likely the focus of care for this mission will be on patients suffering from illness or infections.

About 275 medical and medical support personnel will sail with Mercy to ready the ship for the humanitarian mission. The remaining hospital staff will join the ship later this month. The ship is operated by 64 Navy civilian mariners.

Mercy is normally kept in reduced operating status with an on-board civilian mariner crew of 12 to maintain the vessel, and a hospital support staff of 58 military personnel who care for the ship's hospital facilities, equipment and supplies. Mercy was ordered Jan. 1 to activate from reduced operating status by Commander, U.S. Pacific Fleet. When ordered to activate, the ship must be ready to sail within five days.

Mercy is one of two Navy hospital ships. Her sister ship, USNS Comfort (T-AH 20), is berthed in Baltimore, and has not been ordered to activate.

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