The U.S. Navy is trying to round up support from the other services,
to staff and finance another non-combat cruise of the hospital ship Mercy.
Earlier this year, the Mercy spent six months in Indonesia, treating 61,000
patients. Most of the Indonesians received some medicine, or some dental work.
But about two percent involved some surgery. As a result of the Mercy's visit,
favorable attitudes towards the U.S. by Indonesians doubled (to 30 percent, so
more work is needed.) The Indonesians were getting American quality medicine,
which explains the average cost for treating each patient; $280.
U.S. Navy has two hospital ships; Mercy and Comfort. They were built as tankers
in the 1970s, and converted to hospital ships in the 1980s. They displace
70,000 tons and are 894 feet long.. Each ship has 12 operating rooms, fifty
emergency room beds, a thousand patient beds and a crew of 61 civilians and 225
sailors, plus 956 medical personnel. Fully air conditioned, and stocked with
medical supplies and the latest medical equipment, they bring the highest level
of medical care to parts of the world that have rarely seen any modern medicine
navy's pitch is that one six month deployment by one of these ships has an
enormous impact on the health of the people treated, and on their attitude
towards the United States. The United States armed forces actually has little
use for hospital ships at the moment. Casualty rates in Iraq and Afghanistan
are already much lower than expected, and army medical units actually spend a
lot of their time treating Iraqis.