USNS Comfort leaving Haiti
Published: March 9, 2010
The Hospital ship USNS Comfort will leave Haiti Wednesday after treating 871 patients over the last six weeks, according to U.S. Southern Command.
The ship was rushed to Haiti after Januarys devastating earthquake. It made good time, anchoring off Port-au-Prince on Jan. 20.
The ships medical staff treated more than 540 critically injured patients in the first 10 days alone.
One challenge early on was the ship deployed so quickly that it only had one orthopedic surgeon aboard.
Cmdr. William Todd worked for 47.5 half hours straight and said he has no idea how many surgeries he performed or consulted on in that time.
It's all sort of a blur, he told Stars and Stripes. "What was most shocking was the number of people coming in with severe fractures. I've seen most of these injuries before in ones and twos but never by the dozens and dozens.
Capt. Andy Johnson, the ship's director of medical operations, said the lack of orthopedic surgeons was a result of both mobilizing so quickly and failing to anticipate the overwhelming number of orthopedic injuries.
We augmented with more as soon as we got here, he said. I don't think having more right away would have saved lives. Those first few days I didn't say to myself 'My God, if we just had more orthopedists.
Another issue was that Haitians evacuated to the ship initially had no place to go because local hospitals were overwhelmed.
But by late February, local medical facilities had staged such a turnaround that a 250-bed interim hospital ashore was no longer needed. The Comfort stopped treating earthquake-related injuries on Feb. 28.
The Comfort is expected to return to its port in Baltimore on March 14.
Aout 9,000 U.S. servicemembers will continue to take part in Haiti relief efforts, said SOUTHCOM spokesman Jose Ruiz.
Stripes reporter Megan McCloskey contributed to this blog.
PHOTO: Associated Press