USNS Mercy
The Navy hospital ship USNS Mercy is headed to Los Angeles. Navy photo

The hospital ship USNS Mercy is scheduled to arrive at the Port of Los Angeles Friday in an effort to provide relief for Southland hospitals overwhelmed by the coronavirus pandemic.

The 1,000-bed ship departed Naval Station San Diego Monday and is expected to enter the Port of Los Angeles Friday morning and dock at the cruise ship terminal.

Port officials said the arrival of Mercy is not expected to disrupt shipment operations, and there will be a gradual transfer of patients to the ship from land-based hospitals as needed. Mercy will not house people who test positive or are showing symptoms of COVID-19.

“You know, I was in the backyard on the trampoline with my daughter yesterday, and said we cannot afford to get hurt, and we immediately jumped off,” City Councilman Joe Buscaino, who represents the harbor area, told Fox11. “But in the event someone was to get hurt — a broken bone or a non (COVID-19) incident, you will be taken to the Mercy ship at the Port of Los Angeles.”

Buscaino noted that despite all the publicity surrounding the ship’s arrival — expected around 8 a.m. — people should not flock to the port just because they want to take photos of it.

“This is not an opportunity to take a selfie with the Mercy ship,” he told Channel 11. “So stay away please. This is a serious matter.”

He added, “This is serious. This is not a test. The Port of Los Angeles is well prepared. We host Fleet Week every year, but this is not a simulation. This is real.”

Mercy departed Naval Base San Diego Monday with more than 800 Navy medical personnel and support staff with the afloat medical treatment facility, and 70-plus civil service mariners who operate and navigate the ship, load and off-load mission cargo, assist with repairs to mission equipment and provide essential services to keep the medical facility up and running.

The ship will serve as a referral hospital for non-COVID-19 patients currently admitted to shore-based hospitals, and will provide a full spectrum of medical care to include general surgeries, critical care and ward care for adults, according to the Navy. This will allow local health professionals to focus on treating COVID-19 patients and for shore-based hospitals to use their intensive care units and ventilators for those patients.

“This global crisis demands whole of government response, and we are ready to support,” said Navy Capt. John Rotruck, Mercy’s military treatment facility commanding officer.

“Mercy brings a team of medical professionals, medical equipment and supplies, all of which will act, in essence, as a `relief valve’ for local civilian hospitals in Los Angeles so that local health professionals can better focus on COVID-19 cases,” he said. “We will use our agility and responsiveness as an afloat medical treatment facility to do what the country asks, and bring relief where we are needed most.”

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