Monday, September 10, 2018

Hospital Ships: Open Your Intellectual Aperture

One of the more frustrating parts of blogging occasionally on hospital ships is having the usual suspects chime in somewhere in the middle of the comments section telling us how "These are of little use in how we practice modern medicine. They take ..."

Bla, bla, bla, bla.

They are both correct and 100% wrong at the same time.

One of the many assumptions we make out there has to do with our ready access to cargo aircraft and efficient, open, and safe airways to use them. We also think in narrow little lines.

In war, there is more unknown than known. You can mitigate risk - and in a small way, hospital ships do that. That is only a secondary mission.

They have a primary mission (in Salamanderland at least) and others seem to see it more than we do;
As a statement of soft power, a floating hospital packs a punch with a helping hand to poorer nations in need.

So much so that in the Pacific region major powers are increasingly flexing their humanitarian muscles by sending hospital ships and similar aid missions to the region.

China's 10,000-ton medical ship, the Peace Ark, has cut a broad arc through the Pacific, stopping off in Papua New Guinea, Vanuatu and Fiji and Tonga.

The raw numbers alone are impressive. According to Chinese state media, the ship has 300 beds, eight operating theatres, and can conduct 60 surgeries in a day.

The Peace Ark said it has so far provided free medical treatment to more than 4,000 people in PNG's capital Port Moresby, 4,500 people in Vanuatu, 6,000 in Fiji and more than 5,500 patients in Tonga.
Our hospital ships are larger and better, but MERCY and COMFORT are only two, and they are a bit aged.

We should have at least 4 - and they should be at the yards being built now. They are, alas, unsexy but important.

Shame this isn't getting more play, but here is an example;
The U.S. is sending a Navy hospital ship off the shores of Colombia this fall to provide urgent medical care for Venezuelan refugees.

An estimated 2.3 million Venezuelans have fled their country in the wake of a devastating economic crisis that has caused shortages of food and medical supplies. Over one million of those refugees have crossed the border into Colombia, creating what Mattis called a "destabilizing impact" on the country.

"It is an absolutely a humanitarian mission, we’re not sending soldiers, we’re sending doctors," Mattis told reporters. "And it’s an effort to deal with the human cost of [Maduro and his increasingly isolated regimes."

Pentagon spokesperson Col. Rob Manning said on Monday that the ship will be the 894-foot long USNS Comfort, one of two U.S. Navy hospital ships and one of the largest trauma centers anywhere in the United States.

In a press release on Wednesday, U.S. Southern Command announced that the Comfort would deploy for the two-month-long humanitarian mission in late September with stops in Colombia and the region.

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