In a major development, the US Coast Guard has issued a guidance to foreign passenger vessels in the Seventh District Area of Responsibility (AOR) impacted by COVID-19 which mitigates that the potential overwhelming local medical resources, all vessels operating in this area with more than 50 persons onboard should increase their medical capabilities, personnel and equipment in order to care for the individuals with influenza-like illness for an indefinite period of time, reports Safety4Sea.
Medical facility Reaching Full Capacity?
As explained in a new information bulletin dated 29 March, due to the outbreak, an increased number of passenger vessels have required medical evacuations of both stable and critically ill persons including those with influenza-like illness such as COVID-19.
This is necessary, USCG noted, as medical facilities onshore may reach full capacity soon.
COVID19 Evacuations Causing Strains in Operations?
Although the Coast Guard continues to prioritize safety of life at sea and the safety of U.S. ports and waterways, the sudden increase in cases requiring medical consultations, ultimately resulting in medical evacuations, has placed strains on local media resources throughout the Seventh District’s Area of Responsibility.
The Port of Miami, for example, is no longer accepting MEDEVAC patients due to limited hospital capacity, the bulletin informs.
MEDEVAC Services Guidance
If a medevac is deemed necessary by the USCG flight surgeon, the vessel owner or operator will be required to secure commercial transportation ashore and confirm availability of medical services before any such evacuation is authorized.
- Foreign flagged ships that loiter beyond US territory and require a medevac to a shore facility should seek flag state support prior to seeking support “from the limited facilities in the US”.
- Foreign flagged vessels that loiter beyond U.S. territorial seas, particularly those registered to The Bahamas, that require MEDEVAC to a shoreside facility should seek flag state support prior to seeking support from the limited facilities in the US.
USCG’s Seventh District includes the cruising hub of Florida, as well as Puerto Rico, Georgia, South Carolina.
All these requirements are effective immediately.
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