Back to Top Skip to main content Skip to sub-navigation

Protecting the Force: How the MHS helped sustain readiness in the face of COVID

Image of Hospital personnel treating a patient on a stretcher. Sailors assigned to the hospital ship USNS Mercy treat a patient from Los Angeles medical facilities March 29. Mercy deployed in support of the nation's COVID-19 response efforts, serving a referral hospital for non-COVID-19 patients. (Photo by Navy Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Erwin Jacob Miciano.)

Recommended Content:

Health Readiness & Combat Support | Coronavirus | Coronavirus and the COVID-19 Vaccine | Readiness Capabilities

Keeping warfighters mission-ready and units online is always the top priority for the Military Health System, something complicated in 2020 by the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

Even as COVID-19 vaccine distribution begins, the MHS is preparing guidance for 2021 to build on its success in the past year by continuing to prevent the virus from having a significant effect on the readiness of U.S. Armed Forces.

Sustain medical readiness starts with a lack of complacency for health care workers and their supervisors. That mission has been complicated by 10 months of additional stress to the physical, mental, and emotional wellbeing of frontline service members dealing with the virus, from the steady risk of exposure to worries about spreading the disease to family members. But the basics, such as wearing a mask and social distancing, remain fundamentals in 2021, for MHS workers and anyone in uniform, including those who have received a vaccine. 

Navy Capt. John Rotruck, force surgeon of the III Marine Expeditionary Force based in Okinawa, Japan, has witnessed COVID-19 protection and troop readiness measures from two shores of the Pacific Ocean this year.

Captain Rotruck speaking at a podium in front of the USNS Mercy
Navy Capt. John Rotruck, then the commanding officer of the USNS Mercy, speaks to members of the press before the ship departed Naval Base San Diego in March. Mercy deployed in support of the nation’s COVID-19 response efforts, serving as a referral hospital for non-COVID-19 patients admitted to shore-based hospitals. (Photo by Navy Communication Specialist 1st Class David Mora Jr.)

Before his current duty station, he was the military medical treatment facility commanding officer on the hospital ship USNS Mercy, which made port in Los Angeles to serve as a relief valve for civilian hospitals so the city’s health professionals could focus on the COVID-19 cases that were overwhelming the city. The Mercy’s mission was considered defense support of civil authorities, and was led by the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

“MTF and civilian mariners instituted aggressive COVID mitigation measures early on,” Rotruck recalled. This included compliance with the Department of Defense mandatory mask policy, and hand-washing and social distancing whenever possible.

“As we began to experience a few cases amongst the crew, we took aggressive efforts to complete contact tracing and test and quarantine any close contacts, to include exit quarantine testing,” Rotruck said.

The DOD published more than a dozen force health protection guidance documents in 2020, covering many areas to minimize the risk of COVID-19 spread within the U.S. Military. This includes guidance for testing, travel, face coverings, re-integrating individuals who recovered from COVID-19 back into their units, proper use of personal protective equipment (PPE), how to assess risks at MTFs, and more.

“Installation commanders follow local public health guidance and make sure we have a well-informed force, as evidenced by the behavior they’ve exhibited throughout this pandemic,” said Lernes Hebert, deputy assistant secretary of defense for military personnel policy, at a July press briefing at the Pentagon.

In California, the Mercy had some tricky logistical maneuvering to do, moving many crew members to single hotel rooms off-ship. A tent was set up on the flight deck to provide additional social distancing during meals.

Those measures, though unique to this particular Navy hospital ship, were consistent with triage systems used at MTFs. Under the guidance of public health officers, these systems separated patients with suspected COVID-19 exposure from other patients and providers. Additionally, in the early days of the pandemic, the MHS paused elective and non-essential procedures at MTFs, limiting exposure risk and preserving PPE for COVID-19 patients.

Rotruck said the Mercy was fortunate to have an infectious diseases physician aboard, “with whom we continually consulted. Naval Medical Forces Pacific also deployed a Navy Environmental Health and Preventive Medicine Unit detachment with us, who conducted all of our COVID testing and oversaw our contact tracing.”

All the support was “invaluable” for maintaining the crew’s health, he said.

Meanwhile, Rotruck’s new unit in Japan is keeping an eye on the COVID-19 situation within several populations. 

“As you can imagine, force readiness through force health and preservation is our top priority, so we maintain our ability to respond to crisis,” he said. “We continue to monitor COVID closely both within our [status of forces agreement] population and in the local community, and adjust our force health protection posture accordingly, to maintain that force readiness.”

You also may be interested in...

TRICARE Reserve Select (TRS) Health Plan Reinstatement During COVID-19 National Emergency

Fact Sheet
6/2/2020

Fact sheet explaining that explaining that TRICARE Reserve Select beneficiaries now have five months to reinstate terminated coverage after their last paid-through date before a 12-month lockout period will apply.

Recommended Content:

Coronavirus

MSMR Vol. 27 No. 6 - June 2020

Report
6/1/2020

A monthly publication of the Armed Forces Health Surveillance Branch. This issue of the peer-reviewed journal contains the following articles: Absolute and relative morbidity burdens attributable to various illnesses and injuries, active component, U.S. Armed Forces, 2019; Hospitalizations, active component, U.S. Armed Forces, 2019; Ambulatory visits, active component, U.S. Armed Forces, 2019; Surveillance snapshot: Illness and injury burdens, reserve component, U.S. Armed Forces, 2019; A monthly publication of the Armed Forces Health Surveillance Branch. This issue of the peer-reviewed journal contains the following articles: Letter to the editor: G6PD deficiency in the Tafenoquine era; Summary of the 2018–2019 influenza season among Department of Defense service members and other beneficiaries; Brief report: Direct care cost of heat illness to the Army, 2016–2018; Animal-related injuries in veterinary services personnel, U.S. Army, 2001–2018.

Recommended Content:

Health Readiness & Combat Support | Public Health

MHS Minute: Military Leading the Charge on COVID-19 Research

Video
5/28/2020
MHS Minute: Military Leading the Charge on COVID-19 Research

The military continues to serve on the front lines of research and treatment in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Tune in to the MHS Minute to learn more.

Recommended Content:

Coronavirus

Force Health Protection Guidance (Supplement 9) -Department of Defense Guidance for Deployment and Redeployment of Individuals and Units during the Novel Coronavirus Disease 2019 Pandemic

Publication
5/26/2020

This memorandum provides force health protection (FHP) deployment and redeployment guidance for Service members (including Reserve Component (RC) and National Guard members in a title 10 or title 32 duty status) and DoD civilian employees deploying within and outside the United States during the COVID-19 pandemic, consistent with references (a) and (b).

Recommended Content:

Coronavirus

COVID-19: Lifestyle Tips to Stay Healthy

Article
5/22/2020
Collage of four pictures of people exercising, sleeping and eating healthy food

As we move toward a third year of the COVID-19 pandemic, the virus has changed many of our daily routines in ways no one anticipated and that have become the new normal.

Recommended Content:

Coronavirus | Health Readiness & Combat Support | Total Force Fitness

Guidance for Commanders on Risk-Based Changing of Health Protection Condition Levels During the Coronavirus Disease 2019 Pandemic

Publication
5/20/2020

This memorandum provides guidance for commanders to consider when making decisions to change health protection condition (HPCON) levels as COVID-19 pandemic conditions on and adjacent to our installations begin to improve.

Recommended Content:

Coronavirus

Resuming Elective Surgical, Invasive, and Dental Procedures in Military Medical and Dental Treatment Facilities

Publication
5/19/2020

This memorandum provides guidance on how each Military Medical Treatment Facility (MTF) and Dental Treatment Facility (DTF) may resume elective medical and dental procedures.

Recommended Content:

Public Health | Coronavirus

Military Medical Treatment Facilities to Implement Updated DHA COVID-19 Medical Coding Policy

Policy

The Defense Health Agency (DHA) Memorandum, based on the authority of References (a) and (b), and in accordance with the guidance of References (c) and (d), establishes the DHA’s procedures to standardize the coding for Coronavirus 2019 (COVID-19) Military Medical Treatment Facilities (MTFs). This memorandum cancels and replaces DHA- Policy Memorandum 20-003 of (13 April 2020). A change was issued since the cancelled Memorandum 20-003 of (13 April 2020), the Attachment titles were updated to reflect that Attachments 1, 2, and 4 are considered Policies as opposed to Guidance.

  • Identification #: 20-003
  • Date: 5/13/2020
  • Type: Memorandums
  • Topics: Coronavirus

ICU Nursing Series: Assembling Pressure Tubing (March 31, 2020)

Video
5/11/2020
ICU Nursing Series: Assembling Pressure Tubing (March 31, 2020)

This video will review how to assemble pressure tubing to transduce pressures and waveforms from arterial lines and central lines. Connection to an ICU monitor with zeroing is also reviewed.

Recommended Content:

Coronavirus | Coronavirus and the COVID-19 Vaccine

Multi-Dimensional Approach To Intubation In The Setting Of COVID-19 (April 1, 2020)

Video
5/11/2020
Multi-Dimensional Approach To Intubation In The Setting Of COVID-19 (April 1, 2020)

In this video, a doctor and nurse will talk you through preparing to intubate a patient. At the end of the video we highlight some special considerations for intubation in the context of COVID.

Recommended Content:

Coronavirus | Coronavirus and the COVID-19 Vaccine

Airway Pressure Release Ventilation (APRV) (April 17, 2020)

Video
5/11/2020
Airway Pressure Release Ventilation (APRV) (April 17, 2020)

This video will explain the basics of Airway Pressure Release Ventilation, an option for mechanical ventilation, that is helpful as an oxygen salvage therapy for patients with Acute Respiratory Distress Syndrome (ARDS).

Recommended Content:

Coronavirus | Coronavirus and the COVID-19 Vaccine

Acute Respiratory Distress Syndrome Lecture (April 10, 2020)

Video
5/11/2020
Acute Respiratory Distress Syndrome Lecture (April 10, 2020)

In this lecture, the topic or Acute Respiratory Distress Syndrome is reviewed. Specific discussion on diagnosis and treatment including lung protective strategies are discussed.

Recommended Content:

Coronavirus | Coronavirus and the COVID-19 Vaccine

Ventilator Basics (ACVC) (March 19, 2020)

Video
5/11/2020
Ventilator Basics (ACVC) (March 19, 2020)

Ventilator basics (one mode) for non-intensivists

Recommended Content:

Coronavirus | Coronavirus and the COVID-19 Vaccine

Ventilator Tutorial V500/PB840 Drager (April 10, 2020)

Video
5/11/2020
Ventilator Tutorial V500/PB840 Drager (April 10, 2020)

Ventilator assembly and input of settings for two common ICU ventilators.

Recommended Content:

Coronavirus | Coronavirus and the COVID-19 Vaccine

Acid Base for the Non-intensivist (March 21, 2020)

Video
5/11/2020
Acid Base for the Non-intensivist (March 21, 2020)

This video will teach you the etiologies for the various acid-base disorders as well as teach you how to interpret an ABG with a focus on metabolic acidosis and mixed disorders. This will teach you little to nothing about buffering, organic chemistry, biochemistry, etc. This is for practical application at the bedside.

Recommended Content:

Coronavirus | Coronavirus and the COVID-19 Vaccine
<< < ... 41 42 43 44 45  ... > >> 
Showing results 616 - 630 Page 42 of 70
Refine your search
Last Updated: July 20, 2022

DHA Address: 7700 Arlington Boulevard | Suite 5101 | Falls Church, VA | 22042-5101

Some documents are presented in Portable Document Format (PDF). A PDF reader is required for viewing. Download a PDF Reader or learn more about PDFs.