Four planned Coast Guard Administration 4,000-tonne patrol ships would be equipped with field hospital-grade medical facilities to conduct humanitarian aid in the Asia-Pacific region, a government source said on Monday.
The US’ National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2019, a bill that cleared the US Senate Committee on Armed Services in April, calls for a US hospital ship to visit Taiwan as part of the annual Pacific Partnership mission.
In response, a senior official said on condition of anonymity that Taipei’s and Washington’s humanitarian aid policies are in agreement.
The coast guard’s proposal to build 4,000-tonne patrol ships with field hospital capabilities is a reflection of the government’s commitment to improving the country’s role in rescue and disaster relief throughout the region, the official said.
The ships are to utilize the layout and design of the navy’s proposed next-generation frigates, the official said, adding that some of the deck and internal areas, which were originally intended for weapons systems, would be left in reserve so the ships could be rapidly retrofitted for combat.
Each ship’s medical bay would contain all the facilities expected of a field hospital, including consultation rooms, surgical suites and a ward, the official said.
They should be capable of performing triage, trauma surgery and rapid medical evacuations, either as an evacuation vehicle, an offshore hospital or a mobile hospital, the official said.
The government has prepared plans to recruit medical staff from coast guard volunteers, who would go through emergency medical technician training and receive the proper certificates before being accepted, the official said.
The Ministry of Health and Welfare would provide staff, training and consult on coast guard humanitarian and disaster relief missions, the official said.
In related news, the US Navy hospital ship USNS Mercy yesterday dropped anchor at Tokyo Harbor and is open for tours.
The Japanese government is reportedly mulling the idea of using hospital ships for emergency response during large-scale natural disasters, such as the 2011 Tohoku earthquake, which rendered conventional hospitals inoperable.
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