Hospital Ship Sits Off Puerto Rico, Mostly Empty

Red tape, general confusion preventing hurricane victims from being treated on USNS Comfort
By Jenn Gidman,  Newser Staff
Posted Oct 17, 2017 8:40 AM CDT
Off Puerto Rico, a Floating Hospital Barely Being Used
The USNS Comfort departs Naval Station Norfolk on Sept. 29, 2017, to support hurricane relief efforts in Puerto Rico.   (Bill Mesta/US Navy via AP)

After Hurricane Maria, the USNS Comfort was sent to Puerto Rico, where the floating hospital has been idling offshore for almost two weeks. But CNN reports that only 30 or so of the ship's 250 available beds are occupied, and that its surgery facilities, medical staff, and supplies have barely been tapped, all due to confusion and red tape on transporting hurricane victims to the vessel. The issues seem to revolve around the protocol in getting patients onto the ship—which Hillary Clinton referenced on Twitter last month, urging the US government to send it to Puerto Rico ASAP. Patients apparently have to be referred by the territory's Department of Health, and the referrals haven't been coming, as medical staff don't seem to know exactly what to do. "The disconnect or the apparent disconnect [is] in the communications flow," Ricardo Rossello says, vowing to overhaul the process.

One bright spot, per WTKR: A baby girl was born on the USNS Comfort on Saturday, the first baby birthed on the ship since 2010. "I never thought that our special moment would happen here," says the dad of newborn Sara Victoria Llull Rodriguez, who "has reinvigorated the crew," the ship's mission commander says. Per ABC News, the ship's crew named one of its boat tenders "Sara Victoria" after the baby. CBS News' David Begnaud tweeted a photo of the happy family flanked by smiling crew members after little Sara's arrival. Fox News and ABC News have more on the stats and history of the 900-foot-long ship, which a Navy fact sheet notes boasts "one of the largest trauma facilities in the United States." (More Puerto Rico stories.)

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