USNS Mercy (T-AH 19) approaches he pier in San Diego, May 15. (U.S. Navy/MC3 Tim Heaps)

SAN DIEGO - Hospital ship USNS Mercy (T-AH 19) arrived at Naval Air Station North Island, May 15, after supporting the Department of Defense (DOD) response efforts in the greater Los Angeles area during the coronavirus outbreak.

Mercy spent nearly 50 days pierside at the Port of Los Angeles, serving as a referral hospital treating non-COVID-19 patients, and in effect as a ‘relief valve’ for local hospitals as they were able to focus their efforts on COVID-19 cases. The ship will take the necessary steps to return to a “Ready 5” status to be prepared for future tasking including COVID-19 or other humanitarian assistance and disaster relief efforts.

“The entire crew was invested in this mission and it showed, from the medical professionals who cared for patients in the ICUs and wards, to those who performed life-saving surgeries in the operating rooms, and to the support staff of every specialty, including those who made sure the patients and crew had good food to eat,” said Capt. John Rotruck, commanding officer of Mercy’s medical treatment facility. “Now as we return from this mission, I couldn’t be more proud of the work everyone did.”

Capt. Dan Cobian, commodore of Destroyer Squadron 21 and the mission commander, echoed those sentiments.

“This team of professionals came together as a unit very quickly and were ready to meet the mission objective when we reached Los Angeles,” he said. “That was a monumental task and it was amazing to watch it unfold.”

Mercy supported the lead agency, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), under the Department of Defense’s Defense Support of Civil Authorities (DSCA) mission. The ship, which arrived in Los Angeles March 27, was tasked with providing care to non-COVID patients, bringing the first aboard March 29. While on mission, 77 patients were provided care ranging from basic medical/surgical care to critical care, to trauma, as the ship served as a ‘relief valve’ for state and local healthcare providers. Additionally, the medical professionals on board conducted 36 surgeries, 77 X-ray exams, 26 CT scans and administered hundreds of ancillary studies ranging from routine labs to high-end x-rays and blood transfusion support.

While in Los Angeles, Mercy personnel worked closely with FEMA, state, and local public health authorities to help protect the health and safety of the American people.

“Relationships are critical during a crisis response,” said Vice Adm. Scott D. Conn, commander, U.S. Third Fleet and Maritime Command Element-West said. “Our response was greatly aided by the relationships and trust we have been able to foster with FEMA, the State of California, Los Angeles County, and the City of L.A. through annual Defense Support to Civil Authorities Senior Leadership Seminars and Los Angeles Fleet Week. Whether at home or abroad, we can surge capability but we can’t surge trust.”

Approximately 60 personnel assigned to Mercy’s MTF will continue to provide support at select skilled nursing facilities in support of FEMA, state and local healthcare providers.

For more information, see the NavyLive Blog highlighting the deployment of the U.S. Navy's two hospital ships.

USNS Mercy (T-AH 19) departs the Port of Los Angeles, May 15. (U.S. Navy/MC2 Ryan M. Breeden)

Lt.j.g. Joyce Sim speaks with Oscar Vargas, a patient aboard USNS Mercy (T-AH 19), May 2. (U.S. Navy/MC2 Ryan M. Breeden)

Hospitalman Guillermo Ybanez preps a surgical tool station prior to surgery aboard USNS Mercy (T-AH 19), April 30. (U.S. Navy/MC2 Ryan M. Breeden)

Capt. John Rotruck, left, hospital ship USNS Mercy’s (T-AH 19) Medical Treatment Facility’s commanding officer, observes a pacemaker surgery aboard the hospital ship. (U.S. Navy/MC3 Jake Greenberg)

Sailors walk alongside a patient being treated in an intensive care unit aboard USNS Mercy (T-AH 19), April 24. (U.S. Navy/MC2 Ryan M. Breeden)

Lt. Cmdr. Aaron Gonzalez and Hospital Corpsman 3rd Class Austin Domenech prepare for an interventional radiology study and procedure for a patient aboard tUSNS Mercy (T-AH 19), April 18. (U.S. Navy/MC2 Abigayle Lutz)

Electronics Technician 2nd Class John Arkulary,renders a hand salute during morning colors aboard USNS Mercy (T-AH 19), April 13. (U.S. Navy/MCSN Luke Cunningham)

Logistics Specialist Seaman Allan Teschner receives medical supplies aboard USNS Mercy (T-AH 19), March 29. (U.S. Navy/MC2 Ryan M. Breeden)