SG Message – Standing Strong When Our Nation Most Needs Us

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Esteemed Navy Medicine Shipmates,

Since December 2019, when the Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic
was first reported, Navy Medicine has been on the forefront actively engaged
in and supporting government and international efforts to help protect
Sailors, Marines, Department of Navy civilians, and our fellow citizens from
COVID-19.  This pandemic demands the leadership, creativity and commitment
of our entire One Navy Medicine enterprise.

In addressing this pandemic, the Secretary of Defense has clearly
articulated his priorities:  (1) Protecting our people; (2) Maintaining
mission readiness; and (3) Supporting the whole-of-government effort.  To
this end, we must be ready to execute whatever mission is directed to us.
We have received an order from the Chairman of the Joint Chief of Staff to
prepare our hospital ships – USNS Mercy (T-AH-19) and USNS Comfort (T-AH-20)
to deploy in order to supplement civilian healthcare systems. We will
provide non-COVID care so that they can focus their efforts on those
afflicted by the virus. The critical core staff reported aboard yesterday to
begin the necessary work to bring the ship’s hospitals to life and to
receive the remainder of the crew. MERCY will depart San Diego next week and
COMFORT will follow the following week.  I will keep you updated, but this
represents an unprecedented opportunity to project medical power
domestically and to help our country during a national emergency . This is
not our typical mission of providing combat casualty care; however, it
demonstrates our agility and responsiveness to do what the country asks –
wherever and whenever we’re needed.  We will keep you updated as this
evolves.

In conjunction with the Department of Defense and interagency partners, our
public health professionals, scientists, researchers, emergency preparedness
experts, and many others are working together to confront COVID-19.   Our
Navy Medicine team is actively monitoring the disease and providing direct
support to ensure Navy and Marine Corps commanders have the latest
information to ensure mission readiness and effectiveness.  In addition, our
physicians, nurses, corpsmen, clinical scientists, and laboratory
professionals are prepared to identify, diagnose and care for those who may
contract the virus.  You’ve heard me talk about my commitment to ensure Navy
Medicine is a High Reliability Organization that uses high velocity learning
and rapid cycle feedback.  We are seeing full application of these
principles throughout Navy Medicine and it is making us even more effective
and resilient as we continue to meet this challenge head on.

Below are a few highlights of the actions and contributions Navy Medicine
has made to confront COVID-19:

  • Initiated the BUMED Surgeon General’s COVID-19 Watch.  This Crisis
    Action Team is manned 24/7 and can be reached at (703) 681-1087 or 1125.
  • BUMED is coordinating directly with Fleet Surgeons and the Medical
    Officer of the Marine Corps to disseminate information and actively support
    the operational commanders.
  • BUMED established an on-line communication pipeline to allow
    commanders and their supporting fleet surgeons to input questions directly
    to our Public Health, Research, and Emergency Management professionals.
  • Navy Medical Research Center (NMRC) and Naval Health Research
    Center (NHRC) are actively involved in the fight against COVID-19 as the
    Navy representatives among the 14 DoD laboratories prepared to conduct
    COVID-19 diagnostic testing.
  • Active engagement and collaboration between our Navy Expeditionary
    Preventive Medical Units (NEPMUs) and operational commanders continues in
    order to proactively respond to needs of Fleet regarding advisement on port
    visits to different countries.
  • A Forward Deployable Preventive Medicine Unit (FDPMU), consisting
    of four highly trained specialists, is available to deploy with 48 hours
    lead time to provide decision-makers with information on outbreak response
    and to assist afloat surgeons in Public Health Emergency Response Afloat.
  • Developed a Health Protection Condition (HPCON) determination
    matrix to aid commander’s decision making to ensure the continued health and
    safety of our force, civilians and families.
  • Created an algorithm for determining status of individuals related
    to COVID-19 outbreak.
  • BUMED has validated our stockpile of personal protective equipment
    (PPE) to ensure continued operations should the virus penetrate the force.
  • We have shipped PPE to our OCONUS MTFs to ensure they have what
    they need to respond to this crisis.
  • Developed interim guidance for cleaning and disinfection of public
    facilities for COVID-19
  • Developed flowchart to individuals who are ill and think they may
    have COVID-19
  • Developed guidance for housing suspected COVID-19 patients
  • Supporting fleet operations with Pandemic Influenza and Infectious
    Disease plans
  • Navy Medicine is advising and coordinating on a Concept of Operations for medical screening at Air Mobility Command terminals

You are delivering NAVAL MEDICAL POWER to our Sailors, Marines and their
families in person, over the phone and via the internet.  The force health
protection of our warfighters is paramount and directly enables naval
operations.  I want to emphasize that we must provide clear and objective
guidance to those we care for.  As subject matter experts, they are relying
on us.

In order for us to continue to project medical power and protect our
shipmates, we, too, must to healthy and ready.  Please ensure you are
protecting yourself and your families so you can continue to provide
outstanding care to those who need us.  All commands in the Navy are being
encouraged to help limit Sailor, Marine and family member exposure to the
virus. This includes using flexible work hours, alternating work schedules,
and telework.  We need the Navy Medicine workforce to remain strong during
these challenging times.  Our Sailors and Marines depend on us.

In closing, please keep an eye on your fellow Navy Medicine teammates and
continue to follow health guidelines, which includes washing your hands more
often, avoiding public gatherings, and staying away from others if you’re
sick.  Crushing COVID-19 will be a marathon and not a sprint.  The hallmark
of a high reliability organization is not perfection, but resilience. We
will get through this together and we will be a stronger organization as a
result.

Thank you for all the superb work you are doing during this national
emergency, you are STANDING STRONG, not only for our military beneficiaries,
but the country as a whole and you make me incredibly proud to be a part of
the Navy Medicine team.

BZ

V/r, SG

Bruce L. Gillingham, MD, CPE, AOA
RADM, MC, USN
Surgeon General, U.S. Navy
Chief, Bureau of Medicine and Surgery

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