So, the United States currently operates two hospital ships: the USNS Comfort and USNS Mercy.
And, in case you hadn’t heard, they’re being deployed to help respond to the current coronavirus outbreak.
Originally, these two ships were built during the Cold War with the intent of providing medical service in the event of a “major conflict.”
The Comfort and the Mercy hold an impressive amount of medical space and supplies, including 1,000 beds.
They each have 12 fully equipped operating rooms…
…and digital radiology services.
There’s also things you might not expect on-board, like a medical lab…
…as well as a pharmacy…
…an optometry lab…
…a CAT scanner…
…and not one, but two oxygen-producing plants.
At “full strength,” each of these ships can have a crew of 71 and up to 1,200 doctors, nurses, and other medical specialists.
Uniquely, the Peace Ark can even perform traditional Chinese medicine therapies like cupping and acupuncture.
While the RFA Argus is a smaller ship, having only a 100-bed medical complex on board.
Normally, the Comfort and the Mercy sit dockside and are only manned for basic maintenance.
They are a part of the US Navy, but are actually classified as “auxiliaries.”
Both the Mercy and the Comfort were originally large oil tankers.
More recently, they’ve been known to go out on humanitarian missions to other countries.
And these international humanitarian efforts can even include veterinarian care!
Before the Mercy and the Comfort, the US Navy had a number of other smaller medical ships (no longer operational) that served in World War II, the Korean War, and the Vietnam War.
And finally, believe it or not, medical ships have been around for more than 200 years — some of the earliest hospital ships were actually converted paddlewheel steamboats used during the Civil War.
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