The 1,000-bed Navy hospital ship in NYC was meant to help relieve overburdened hospitals. So far it's just 2% full, and a hospital director called it a 'joke.'

USNS Comfort 2.JPG

  • The US Navy hospital ship Comfort arrived in New York City on Monday to lend help to the city's overburdened hospitals during the coronavirus outbreak.
  • USNS Comfort's mission is to free up space in NYC hospitals by taking non-coronavirus patients.
  • But as of Thursday evening, just 20 patients were being treated, The New York Times reported. The ship has space for 1,000 patients.
  • The ship's low intake is partly due to strict restrictions over how patients are admitted on board, the fact that the Comfort isn't allowing 49 other ailments, and the lack of non-coronavirus patients in the city right now.
  • One hospital director told to The Times that the Comfort's mission is "a joke" because it isn't actually helping in a meaningful way.
  • Visit Business Insider's homepage for more stories.

The US Navy hospital ship Comfort arrived in New York City on Monday to help the city's hospitals, which have been stretched thin by the coronavirus outbreak.

It was a beacon of hope for New Yorkers, many of whom broke self-isolation and crowded the streets on the city's West Side to see the ship as it came into port.Advertisement

The 1,000-bed hospital ship's mission was to free up space in the city's hospitals by taking non-coronavirus patients off their hands.

But as of late Thursday, just 20 patients were being treated on board the ship, according to The New York Times, in part because of strict restrictions over how patients are admitted on board, and because there aren't many non-coronavirus patients in the city at the moment.

new yorkers greet comfort
Advertisement

In order to get on the ship, patients must first be taken to a hospital, where they are tested for COVID-19.

But the ship isn't accepting patients with 49 other ailments as well, according to a list sent around to the local hospitals. Only once that person's issues are determined to fit the scope of the ship's treatment offerings can that person be taken by ambulance to the Comfort.Advertisement

One hospital director called the ship "a joke" because it isn't actually helping the city's hospitals in a meaningful way if it's not accepting COVID-19 patients.

"If I'm blunt about it, it's a joke," said Michael Dowling, the head of Northwell Health, New York's largest hospital system. He told The Times he's had to tear his hospitals apart, turning lobbies and conference rooms into wards to treat hundreds of coronavirus patients.

"It's pretty ridiculous," he told The Times. "If you're not going to help us with the people we need help with, what's the purpose?"Advertisement

USNS Comfort 11

The US Navy did not immediately respond to Business Insider's request for comment.

Capt. Patrick Amersbach, who is leading the Comfort, told a news conference that if the ship's mission is changed and it is asked to accept COVID-19 cases, it will reconfigure the ship to make it happen.Advertisement

"If our mission shifts, we do what we can to meet that mission," he said.

Do you have a personal experience with the coronavirus you'd like to share? Or a tip on how your town or community is handling the pandemic? Please email covidtips@businessinsider.com and tell us your story.

And get the latest coronavirus analysis and research from Business Insider Intelligence on how COVID-19 is impacting businesses.

{{}}