1,000-bed USNS Mercy in Port of Los Angeles admits total of 15 patients so far

SAN PEDRO, Calif. (KABC) -- The U.S. Navy hospital ship Mercy has treated a total of 15 patients since it arrived at the Port of Los Angeles last Friday, according to the ship's commanding officer.

The 1,000-bed hospital ship is treating patients with non-COVID-19 ailments in an effort to relieve the stress of L.A. area hospitals that are dealing with the rising number of novel coronavirus cases.

Mercy's commanding officer Capt. John Rotruck said Thursday in a call with reporters that there are currently 10 patients on the ship and five have been discharged.

Rotruck said patients are transferred after being referred to by the hospitals through a county medical alert center, which the Mercy has been added to.

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"It's really driven by demand from the local hospitals based on their current capacity," Rotruck said in the briefing regarding the number of patients on the ship. "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, Rotruck stated.

During the briefing, Rotruck also stated that if the ship was ever ordered to start accepting COVID-19 patients, the necessary adjustments would be made to accommodate the request.

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Mercy has 800 active duty doctors, nurses and medical staff members on board.

Rotruck made his statements in a call with reporters and was joined by the commanding officer of the USNS Comfort, Capt. Patrick Amersbach. The Comfort in New York City has accepted 20 patients since it docked Monday as the city has emerged as the epicenter of the coronavirus outbreak in the U.S.

The briefing came as federal prosecutors say a train engineer deliberately ran a train off the tracks at high speed near the Port of Los Angeles in an attempt to crash into the Mercy.

The Pacific Harbor Line train derailed Tuesday, running through the end of the track and crashing through barriers, finally coming to rest about 250 yards from the docked naval ship.
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