The hospital ship USNS Comfort transits the Panama Canal in October on its way to South America for the Enduring Promise medical support mission. The Comfort returned to Naval Station Norfolk on Wednesday. Photo by Raymond Sarracino/U.S. Southern Command/U.S. Embassy Panama
Dec. 19 (UPI) -- The USNS Comfort on Wednesday arrived at Naval Station Norfolk, following an 11-week mission to Central and South America to provide medical services and relieve shortages there.
The docking is the end of the Comfort's 11-week medical mission to Central and South America in support of U.S. Southern Command's Enduring Promise initiative. Ecuador, Peru, Colombia and Honduras are partners included in the program to help relieve shortages in medical care in the region.
A surge in cross-border migrants who often need medical care has put increased strain on already overstretched health services across South and Central America.
The 465 doctors, nurses and corpsmen aboard the ship, as well as the 90 medical and dental professional volunteers from non-governmental organizations, treated more than 26,000 patients and conducted about 600 surgeries, according to the U.S. Navy.
"This deployment reflects the United States enduring promise of friendship, partnership and solidarity with our partners in the Americas," Rear Adm. Sean Buck, commander of U.S. Naval Forces Southern Command, said in a press release.
The Comfort is a non-commissioned USNS ship crewed mainly by civilians with naval attachments. It is a mobile ship-based Level III medical facility which is capable of initial treatment, surgical operations and post-operative care.
In its deployments to the Caribbean and Central and South America during the last decade, the Navy said the ship has treated 390,000 people and performed more than 6,000 surgeries.
Its mission, along with its sister ship, the USNS Mercy, is to support both combat military operations with treatment of casualties to provide medical services during humanitarian and disaster relief operations.