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Comfort, Local NOLA Doctors Establish Trauma Treatment Unit

Navy NewsStand

Story Number: NNS051004-03
Release Date: 10/4/2005 9:59:00 AM

From USNS Comfort Public Affairs

NEW ORLEANS (NNS) -- Medical staff on board USNS Comfort (T-AH 20) and local New Orleans physicians began treating trauma patients aboard the hospital ship Oct. 3 in a landmark partnership between the Navy and the Louisiana Department of Health and Hospitals.

The Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) between the Department of Defense and the supervisory health government organization within the state of Louisiana is a resource-sharing partnership to conduct humanitarian assistance/disaster relief operations.

The agreement is designed to help smooth the transition going from shipboard health care to civilian health care in local hospitals throughout the city of New Orleans.

“Now that the MOU is signed, credentialed doctors and nurses from the local community will be able to work aboard ship on an as-needed basis in Comfort’s Military Treatment Facility (MTF). They will be working side by side with Navy physicians and nurses,” said Capt. Thomas Allingham, Comfort MTF commanding officer.

Comfort, currently moored pierside in New Orleans, is positioned to assist in the relief effort in the aftermath of both Hurricane Katrina and Hurricane Rita.

The hospital ship has more than 600 medical and support personnel aboard to assist in the Federal Emergency Management Agency-led initiative to provide disaster relief to the Gulf Coast region.

Comfort leadership stated that, generally, they do not expect trauma patients to be on board for longer than 72 hours for treatment before being transported to local civilian hospitals for follow-on care as necessary.

Lt. Cmdr. Cherylynn Lillvik, charge nurse on one of Comfort’s medical surgical wards, said she expects to see a wide range of emergency treatments on board during this transition phase for the region.

“During re-population of the area, I expect us to treat injuries ranging from stepping on a nail at the site of a wrecked home, to falling from a roof during reconstruction; and, possibly, more serious injuries,” said Lillvik, a Crystal River, Fla., native. “[On the wards] we must deal with rampant infection before it creates a lot of damage in the body.”

Lillvik said her job is fulfilling. “I feel patriotic helping out fellow Americans; this is what we should be doing,” she said.

Comfort has unique capabilities for humanitarian relief missions including helicopter lift capability, advanced medical equipment, a wide range of medical skills, berthing and personnel support, as well as supplies to support medical operations ashore.

Comfort is currently functioning at a 250-bed capacity.

In addition to the 59 Sailors and 63 civil service mariners who make up the Reduced Operating Status (ROS) crew aboard the ship, the crew has been augmented with Sailors from the National Naval Medical Center in Bethesda, Md., the Naval Medical Clinic in Annapolis, Md., and several other Navy Military Treatment Facilities.

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