DLA stocks hospital ship with pharmaceuticals in support of Puerto Rico relief mission

By Shawn J. Jones DLA Troop Support Public Affairs

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When the USNS Comfort arrived in San Juan, Puerto Rico, Oct. 3 to assist in humanitarian relief efforts, it was stocked with pharmaceuticals provided by Medical supply chain professionals at the Defense Logistics Agency Troop Support.

The Comfort is a seagoing hospital ship with the capability to support complex medical procedures. Approximately 800 personnel are embarked on the Comfort for the Puerto Rico mission.

The Comfort’s mission is part of a whole-of-government response effort led by the Federal Emergency Management Agency to help those affected by Hurricane Maria. But it can’t support the humanitarian crisis without the medical materiel that DLA Troop Support provides.

The Comfort ordered a combination of ambulatory care medications for the ship's routine use, as well as controlled substances and narcotics required for surgeries and post-operative care, said Randy Owens, a supervisor in Medical’s operational customers division.

DLA’s pharmacy team worked with the Military Sealift Command and the pharmaceutical vendor to ensure the ship left port with the medical materiel it needed, Owens said.

“We are all very happy that we have the opportunity to contribute to the well-being of our fellow U.S. citizens residing in the territory of Puerto Rico, as they battle back from the aftermath of Hurricane Maria,” he said. 

The materiel was successfully delivered Sept. 29. But Linda Grugan, DLA’s lead pharmaceutical contracting officer who works with the Navy’s hospital ships, said the effort required a heightened sense of urgency.

“As always, the challenge when a humanitarian crisis hits is getting large quantities of pharmaceuticals ordered, picked and delivered to the hospital ships in a very short time period,” Grugan said.

But she said the effort is satisfying.

“DLA Troop Support does an outstanding job of supporting both the warfighters and also those that have been affected by natural disasters,” Grugan said. “When I work on providing pharmaceutical support to the Navy’s hospital ships and the rest of their fleet, I always feel grateful that I have an opportunity in some small way to make a positive difference.”

The hospital ship has one of the largest trauma facilities in the United States and is equipped with four X-ray machines, one CAT scan unit, a dental suite, an optometry lens laboratory, physical therapy center, pharmacy, angiography suite and two oxygen-producing plants, according to the Navy.

The Comfort's primary mission is to provide a mobile medical treatment facility capable of supporting expeditionary warfare operations. Its secondary mission is to provide full hospital services to support disaster relief and humanitarian operations worldwide.