LOS ANGELES, California -- An El Paso sailor is currently serving aboard the USNS Mercy, a 1,000-bed naval hospital ship that is treating patients with non-Covid-19 ailments in an effort to relieve the stress of Los Angeles area hospitals that are dealing with the rising number of coronavirus cases.
Mercy has 800 active duty doctors, nurses and medical staff members on board, including Hospital Corpsman 3rd Class Erick Galindo from El Paso, who can often be seen working in the ship's laboratory.
Mercy's commanding officer Capt. John Rotruck said patients are transferred to the ship at the Port of Los Angeles after being referred by the hospitals through a county medical alert center.
"It's really driven by demand from the local hospitals based on their current capacity," Rotruck said in a recent briefing with reporters. "We're here in support of FEMA and the state of California, so we're ready to answer whatever that demand signal is. If that demand signal ramps up, we'll certainly be ready to accommodate that."
Since the ship is not treating Covid-19 patients, Rotruck said referring hospitals are screening and testing patients for the virus before someone can be transferred.
The ship has treated a broad range of patients involved in traumatic accidents and those with gastrointestinal issues and heart and lung problems since arriving just over a week ago, Rotruck stated.
Rotruck also stated that if the ship was ever ordered to start accepting coronavirus patients, the necessary adjustments would be made to accommodate the request.