Cairns Care Takes to the Sea
4 August 2016
A Cairns Army Reserve nursing officer has swapped a coastal sea view for a hospital with a 360-degree sea view.
When Captain Bill Cater donned his camouflage uniform and left his clinical nursing position at the Cairns hospital to deploy on Pacific Partnership for some 14 weeks, he was headed for life aboard one of the largest floating hospitals in the world.
The US Navy hospital ship USNS Mercy is one of a pair of converted supertankers - a 69000 ton floating mega hospital with 1000 beds, twelve operating theatres complete with pre and post-operative suites, full blood and pathology suites, radiology department, a dental suite, ophthalmology capability and four intensive care units including an isolation unit.
Mercy is serving on the annual Pacific Partnership activity, where a multinational team of military and civilian specialists work with host nations to conduct medical, engineering, dental and veterinary clinics, which allow the participants to work together and learn how to cooperate ahead of a disaster situation that would require an international response.
In Captain Cater's case he has spent most of his time in the Intensive Care Unit (ICU).
He said the facilities on the ship rival that of many hospitals in Australia.
"When I came onboard this ship I wasn't sure what to expect," he said.
"When I saw the ICU, I was totally taken aback - it was amazing just how modern and well equipped the ICU is."
US Navy Captain Tony Han, the senior 'Intensivist' aboard Mercy, said the ICU covered a broad range of needs.
"Intensive care is not just about car accidents or heart attacks," he said.
"People come in here for any number of reasons including post-operative care.
"We have the technology and expertise to provide round-the-clock life support and critical medical care, close monitoring, to patients."
Captain Cater said the multinational ICU team has cared for had a number of patients who have needed extra care or isolation.
"Working with a team of US Navy and NGO nurses in the ICU is great," he said.
"We are able to see how we work together and what different techniques we use."
Mercy is equipped primarily for conflict zones and looking after allied troops, but in tasks like Pacific Partnership the ship and its dedicated staff help communities in need through the host nation Pacific Partnership program.
Under the Pacific Partnership banner in 2016, Mercy has so far visited Dili in Timor Leste, Legazpi in the Philippines and Da Nang in Vietnam.
The ship will now visit Kuantan in Malaysia and Padang in Indonesia before Captain Cater returns to Australia and back to his day job in Cairns.