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California Democrat Asks Newsom To Bring U.S. Navy Hospital Ship Back To Port Of L.A. To Relieve SEIU Workers
Tugboats guide the USNS Mercy hospital ship to moor at the Port of Los Angeles in Los Angeles, California, U.S., on Friday, March 27, 2020.
Tim Rue/Bloomberg via Getty Images

An influential Democrat on the powerful Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors has called on California Governor Gavin Newsom to bring the Navy hospital ship, USNS Mercy, back to the Port of L.A.

Supervisor Janice Hahn recently sent a letter to the governor “in support of SEIU 721’s request to provide additional healthcare workers to all hospitals” in America’s most populated county that have reportedly been inundated with coronavirus patients. The local is the largest public-sector union in Southern California, representing more than 95,000 workers, many of whom work in hospitals.

“Our SEIU healthcare workers are exhausted and our hospitals are overwhelmed. They need backup,” Supervisor Hahn said.

In the letter, dated Dec. 29, Hahn asked Gov. Newsom to “call on our federal partners to bring back the USNS Mercy with accompanying medical staff.”

“Emergency departments throughout LA County are overwhelmed and cannot take in all patients in need of urgent care,” she wrote. “The USNS Mercy can add more emergency care capacity for patients not suffering from COVID-19 related health complications. This will in turn alleviate the burden on hospitals, so they can focus on severely ill COVID-19 patients.”

Hahn’s office cautioned, “Hospitals across LA County are preparing to ration care as COVID-19 hospitalizations rise and surpass the ability of available staff to properly treat patients.” She is backing SEIU 721’s appeal for Army National Guard medical personnel to be dispatched to the area to provide support.

“Our public health experts warn that the worst is yet to come with the anticipated incoming Christmas and New Year’s holiday surge,” Hahn wrote.

USNS Mercy briefly docked at the Port of L.A. in March. It was one of several medical field stations established by the state in preparation for an expected COVID-19 surge Newsom said would require an additional 50,000 hospital beds.

According to Democratic Mayor Eric Garcetti, the 1000-bed ship immediately became the largest hospital in town. “This truly is mercy on the water,” he said.

The ship was staffed by more than 800 Navy medical personnel and support members and meant to treat trauma patients, allowing shore-based hospitals to concentrate on people who would fall ill with COVID-19.

However, area hospitals were not overwhelmed, and the expected wave of sick people never materialized. Mercy’s crew only treated 77 patients in seven weeks, and the ship departed on May 15.

The state had also leased a shuttered hospital in L.A. at the time in anticipation of the surge that never happened. The former St. Vincent Medical Center temporarily reopened as the Los Angeles Surge Hospital (LASH). The pop-up facility only admitted coronavirus patients who met certain criteria. It was open for only 39 days and treated just 64 patients. According to the Governor’s Office of Emergency Services, the operating costs totaled $21.5 million.

The complex is owned by Dr. Patrick Soon-Shiong, who also owns the Los Angeles Times. According to the outlet, he had planned “to create a coronavirus research facility on the campus” that would “relieve pressure on other hospitals.” But as The Daily Wire reported earlier this month, the property was recently used to shoot a full-scale Hollywood production.

On December 4, a shortage of intensive care unit beds in Southern California triggered a stay-at-home order that shut down outdoor restaurant dining, hair salons, and restricted capacity at retail stores. The regional directive took effect two days later, and was extended on Tuesday.

Related: Los Angeles Surge Hospital That Treated COVID-19 Patients Now Appears To Be Site Of Full-Scale Hollywood Production

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