On its first visit to the Solomon Islands, the U.S. Navy hospital ship Mercy provided medical care to thousands of residents. The Mercy also worked with local health care workers to build Solomon Islanders’ capacity to respond to natural disasters.
“Today, we make history as we join hands in partnership and friendship to welcome and celebrate the inaugural visit by the U.S. Navy Hospital Ship Mercy to Solomon Islands,” Solomon Islands Prime Minister Manasseh Sogavare said during a public welcome ceremony in Honiara August 30.
The Mercy’s two-week visit to the Solomon Islands was part of the Pacific Partnership 2022 exercise. The annual exercise, in its 17th year, is the largest multinational humanitarian assistance and disaster relief preparedness mission in the Indo-Pacific, according to the U.S. Navy’s Pacific Command.
A floating hospital
The Mercy is unlike almost any other U.S. Navy ship. At 275 meters long, the mobile hospital can house up to 1,000 hospital beds, 12 operating rooms and 1,200 medical professionals when fully staffed.
During the visit to the Solomon Islands, the crew carried out nearly 6,000 medical appointments — including 4,500 dental procedures — performed more than 50 surgeries and distributed 1,000 pairs of glasses.
The medical staff of the Mercy also trained local health care workers. The training included a workshop on humanitarian assistance and disaster relief in partnership with the Solomon Islands government.
The visit also spanned four engineering projects, one of which installed volcano monitoring equipment on Savo Island. Residents will now receive early warnings of potential volcanic activity.
The crew of the Mercy participated in 16 concerts, as well as community school events.
These activities are part of efforts to build connections and expand humanitarian capabilities, said Captain Hank Kim, Pacific Partnership 2022 mission commander.
“As we learn from each other and grow as professionals,” Kim said, “we enhance our collective ability to respond to any disaster we may face. As the Pacific Partnership motto goes, ‘we are preparing in calm to respond in crisis.’”
In addition to the Solomon Islands, this Pacific Partnership mission included stops in Vietnam, Palau, the Philippines and engineering engagements in Fiji and Papua New Guinea.