USNS Mercy (T-AH 19) transits San Diego Bay, March 23. (U.S. Navy/MC1 David Mora Jr.)

SAN DIEGO - The hospital ship USNS Mercy (T-AH 19) departed Naval Base San Diego, March 23, and is now underway to Los Angeles in support of the nation’s COVID-19 response efforts.

"This global crisis demands whole of government response, and we are ready to support,” said Capt. John Rotruck, Mercy’s Military Treatment Facility (MTF) 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. 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.”

Mercy departed Naval Base San Diego with over 800 Navy medical personnel and support staff with the afloat MTF, and over 70 civil service mariners. 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. 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.

Civil service mariners operate and navigate the ship, load and off-load mission cargo, assist with repairs to mission equipment and provide essential services to keep the MTF up and running.

Mercy’s MTF is an embarked crew of medical personnel from the Navy's Bureau of Medicine and Surgery responsible for operating and maintaining one of the largest trauma facilities in the United States.

USNS Mercy’s primary mission is to provide an afloat, mobile, acute surgical medical facility to the U.S. military that is flexible, capable and uniquely adaptable to support expeditionary warfare. Mercy's secondary mission is to provide full hospital services to support U.S. disaster relief and humanitarian operations worldwide.

Mercy is the first of two Mercy-class hospital ships. A converted San Clemente-class supertanker, Mercy was delivered to the Navy's Military Sealift Command Nov. 8, 1986. Military Sealift Command operates the ships which sustain our warfighting forces and deliver specialized maritime services in support of national security objectives in peace and war.

U.S. 3rd Fleet leads naval forces in the Indo-Pacific and provides the realistic, relevant training necessary for an effective global Navy. U.S. 3rd Fleet works in close coordination with U.S. 7th Fleet to provide commanders with capable, ready assets across the spectrum of military operations in the Indo-Pacific.

Rear Adm. Timothy Weber, commander of Naval Medical Forces Pacific, speaks during a press conference ahead of USNS Mercy (T-AH 19) departing San Diego, March 23. (U.S. Navy/MC1 David Mora Jr.)