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Hospital ship for Canada


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An interesting idea I just read in Casr.ca about possibly converting a sister ship to the interim AOR (Project Resolve) into a hospital/disaster relief ship.


What do you think?

(Hopefully, I've linked properly to the CASR website...I'm not as proficient at this as many of you are...otherwise, sorry).

Commendable suggestion.  Only problem with it is that then we would have to have Doctors and Nurses to man it.  We don't even have enough Doctors in the CAF a the moment to take care of the troops, let alone have dedicated Doctors positioned on a Hospital Ship.
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NO! No friggin way !!!!!

If Canadians want an hospital ship to deploy for disaster relief, MAN IT WITH MERCHANT SEAMEN AND CIVILIAN HEALTH TRADES PERSONNEL.

I really don't care if Canadian want the military more involved in peacekeeping, disaster relief and humanitarian aid: That is NOT the job of the military.

Don't people understand that doing such work with the military means you are doing it at THREE TIMES THE COST of doing it with civilian agencies ?

Oldgateboatdriver said:
NO! No friggin way !!!!!
Correct..... but don't you see what a godsend this could be for an anti-military government and it's kumbaya constituents?

It cannot help but take up an inordinate amount of the 'war-fighting' defence budget and hard-sea PYs.  The Navy would have no choice but to cut back on it's real military role (because Admirals no longer resign to make a political statement).  The government then gets a knock-on benefit because there are less combatant options to offer to the international community when the call comes to contribute to the next inevitable coalition.  Win-win.  Hugs and lattes all around.

Personally, I think a hospital ship is a poor idea for multiple reasons.  As mentioned in the thread on the Defence Policy Review though, the government clearly doesn't like defence spending or interventions in any form other than a disarmed (mythical) blue beret role.  As such, I can see the good idea faeries being all over  this one. 

It seems like its been quite some time since someone referenced CASR on these means, thinking it to provide a well thought out analysis of a military procurement issue.  Well, live and learn.

While my experience with "planning for a Canadian hospital ship" is admittedly quite long ago (late 1980s), if such did come to fruition, the manning would likely be along the same lines as the American hospital ships - Comfort and Mercy (USNSs not USSs) - civilian mariner crewed and medically manned (with the exception of a miniscule caretaker staff) only during operations and major exercises.  To be honest, back in the 1980s when this was proposed within the SurgGen branch, I don't think it went very far outside the medical world (reaction would probably have been similar to OGBD's) and the major proponent of the idea (my director at the time) was not viewed very kindly.  I do recall having to produce a service paper following a visit to D.C. to meet with BUMED pers who later took me on a very detailed tour of Comfort which at the time was homeported in Baltimore.

I'll second OGBD, though not as loudly.  There are better ways to spend "military" money.  Though you probably won't find it written anywhere (because no one, especially a politician, would want a paper trail of such a realistic viewpoint made public) probably the sole military organization that should be focused on "humanitarian" operations is DART; it is relatively cheap and not very manpower intensive and projects a good public image for the government when it can say that it is considering sending it somewhere - makes the government look good without having to actually do a lot.
If they want to do something like that, they might as well just stay with an expanded role 1 CFH - faster to deploy, equipment is reasonably available, just mesh the people and fire them out the door.  Now that the C-17's are actually available, it can be projected faster than a ginormous ship.  Plus, they won't need to try and deploy a butt load of helicopters to shuttle the casualties back and forth, not to mention escort ships.  Agreed though, if they were to go with something mentally challenged like that, crew it with a mixed bag, not solely military.


I suppose that if we had a much larger navy, then it wouldn't necessarily be a bad idea. 

But if Project Resolve were to have a sister ship, then why not another AOR (either leased or owned by the RCN)?  And, most likely, the hospital ship would be docked for months or even years before a disaster came along requiring its usage.  Talk about wasting taxpayer's money.

On the other hand, an LHD or similar type ship, when not serving in a purely military capacity, could serve many of the same functions as the proposed hospital ship. Earlier, when I said the proposal was "interesting", I didn't mean to imply that I was in favour of it.  However, it did catch my interest. Cheers.
Could hospital facilities not be installed aboard one of the upcoming AOR ships, whether it is the Berlin class or the interm AOR?

I don't know if the hospital ships in USN service are all that busy - although I could be wrong?  If they aren't in extremely high demand, then chances are having a hospital ship in Canadian Navy service would be a rather redundant capability that would only marginally add to what the USNS can provide - and at a cost in terms of dollars & manpower that we simply cannot afford. 
If I recall correctly, the interim oiler (Project Resolve) was supposed to have some hospital facilities but have no idea as to the number of beds or types of supportive medical equipment. Not sure about the Berlin class ships. 

The Mistral carriers are described as having a 69 bed hospital, two operating theatres, dental, etc., the equivalent facilities of a city of 20,000.
The Hospital ships of the US Navy are for the purpose of large scale opposed Marines landings where heavy casualties (exceeding greatly the Hospital facilities of the Amphibious force ships) are expected. Period. Sole reason for existence. They go back to the Pacific Island fighting of WWII.

For us in Canada, first of all, the AOR's do have surgical theatre and dental surgery theatre, accompanied by a large Sick Bay with a reasonable number of critical care beds. That's all you really need to support the Navy's needs.

If you want large ships with more: Get amphibs, like the Mistral's or the Canberra's. They have a small hospital as part of their make up and if need be, some of the nearby mess decks for troop transport can be turned into extra hospital beds, increasing the capacity for medical aid by that much. However, the rest of the time (the 15 years between two weeks stints as large capacity hospitals  :nod:) they can fulfill all sorts of various task related to the role of  a military: war or training of war, not to mention they would do a lot more for affirming our sovereignty in peace time.
My guess is that the folks at Davie, like me, believe that the outcome of the Defence Review is already written and the "team" is there to organize submissions around it (the foregone conclusion), in a supportive manner.

Organization like Mercy Ships and Project HOPE (which no longer operates a ship) do good work but there is room for more.


I'm guessing that Davie will propose a Francophone or bilingual ship ~ my sense (uninformed, except by one friend who worked for them some years ago) is that Africa Mercy is run by Americans and works, mainly in English ~ owned and operated by Davie under a very lucrative, long term lease to Foreign Affairs. (My other guess is that Foreign Affairs would not want to share any credit for this sort of thing with DND.)

Personally, I think it fits well with what I sense as the "Trudeau vision" and it could* be operated in a way that enhances Canada's influence in Africa: a region which is growing in economic importance, although I doubt Foreign Affairs sees it in such crass, self interested terms.

* But it's the government, after all, and a Canadian government at that, so look to it to be operated in a way that backfires and brings us ridicule and scorn ~ think health care in Ontario.
I don't get why they have such a problem with an "orphan class"

Ship maintenance is a pretty clear thing, maintenance time lines, required spares, etc, are all pretty well defined, doesn't matter if you've got one boat or ten.

Beyond that, what purpose would it even serve? We have no marines.

If it's just something to wave the flag and feel good about in the crappies parts of the earth, then why dump it on the military?

Slap a coast guard flag on it or fund an NGO to do it. It'll cost a fraction of the price and far easier to get rid of once it's no longer the flavour of the day.

For that matter, is it even the flavour of the day? Has anyone other than CASR even suggested it?
The think the  standby costs of a Hospital ship like this would be quite significant. To JM's point, that may be quite advantageous for ulterior political motives.

Aside from funding issue, sourcing enough experienced medical personnel who would be willing to serve (confined) on the vessel would be a challenge for our recruiters and PSO's. Surely a lot of extra incentive would need to be paid.
The ship would need a security detachment (a PL of MP? Infantry?), air crew, specialized helicopters, an armed escort, air cover etc. The last 4 may be sourced by Allies if we can find some that are stupid enough to play along.

A more useful peacekeeping/peace support ship would be 2 or 3 very large ships with ramps and mexe floats, 4-5 medium Helo's, the ships cargo spaces loaded to capacity with engineering stores and thousands of lane meters for heavy equipment that can be used to open ports, roadways, clear debris, build proper refugee camps (with medical facilities), temporarily repair infrastructure (Water lines, telecommunications, power, runways etc), and also supply the ground troops to guard, defend and police those operations.  Because the vessel would not be a "Hospital Ship", it could be fitted (or "fitted for") PDMS, RAM, CIWS and the like.      These ships could be in the 700-800 foot (or larger)  length, 40-50,000 tons.

A very small standing Naval crew for port standby and basic navigation, a few more personnel for combat systems, and when deployed the enhanced operational crew drawn from rest of the CAF primarily from the land forces and the RCAF. The standby costs, once loaded with stores except the heavy equipment would be "lower", but certainly not minimal, but given the amount of opportunity for a ship like this to be utilized, I would expect for very little standby time other than required to reload stores, return -exchange equipment etc. 

This would clearly not be an "assault ship", an LHD or LPD or anything like that. But it would give the RCN and the CAF an ability to land (in a permissive environment) a significant combat and construction engineering force (if we had one) into either a disaster zone or property recently fought over by others.  Looking forward 20 years, the new custom of "we don't do the actual fightin'" on the ground as this will be done by others", (same with air cover etc.), will be well entrenched.  One or two of the half dozen CSC's that will actually get built might be around as escort, if available.

It would probably also stretch the RCN over the breaking point, but that's another discussion and an outcome that nobody politically really cares about.

Don't get me wrong ERC. If the Government of Canada wants to provide health services to less developed countries through the use of floating "mercy" hospitals, I have no problem so long as it's done by civilians, under the aegis of Foreign (I positively hate calling it "Global") Affairs and is paid from the foreign aid budget - not the military.

I have to say, that would be a new development in world affairs. The two organizations you refer to (Project Hope and MercyShips Organization) are religiously funded organizations that are NGO. I am not aware of any government run similar organization that provide such service, and for good reasons: For a government to go and operate in another country is much more complex to organize than a NGO. You need permission from the other state government, inter-government coordination, consideration for the existence or not of disputes between government, influence of ex-colonial status or not, or interference from other foreign government for their own purpose, etc. etc. You make the "mercy" ship military and you just doubled the complexity of making arrangements. (If you think that providing needed health care to its citizens takes priority over maintenance of at least the appearance of legitimately governing the country by overtly "lording-it" over the rich Western democracy government offering aid for the "presidents for life" of those "democracies", you are deluding yourself.)

Actually, NSO, there is no problem with an "orphan" class if, and only if, the contribution of the class is of such value to the fleet as to justify the extra cost. A good example was the AOR's before they were retired (and same when we get the two Berlin's), which were the last two steamships in the fleet. So you had to keep a full set of "everything steam" on each coast.

Orphan class costs a lot more per ship to maintain. Think set of plans. One per class to keep up to date. Same cost for an orphan as a full class, but per ship, the plans of the large class get divided by the number in the class. Same for stocks of IOR items that would otherwise restrict a ship alongside. Example: anchor. Sounds benign, but you are not allowed to sail without your full complement of anchors. Sure, you very, very  seldom need an anchor replaced, but when you do, it is extremely important to be able to replace immediately. So, emergency stocks are kept in store as long as a class of ships is in service. However, that means that for an orphan class, you may keep one in stock for the individual ship, while for a full class of, say, seven ships on one coast, you will only keep two in stock.

Multiply that by all similar type of items and keeping an orphan becomes much more expansive than full class. So, again, it matters then that the force multiplication such orphan ship provides you for your operation makes it worthwhile. An Hospital ship is definitely NOT in that category.

And W601, I'll reiterate what I said just above here: We must keep in mind that there is a name for taking military forces (of any size or description) into another country without that country's government permission: It's called an invasion and it is an act of war. Just because we happen to be Canadians and have good intentions will not change that. So the question becomes: In the next, say 35 years, how often do we expect to have major disasters occurring in foreign countries or localized wars lead to cease-fires but lengthy peace negotiations requiring peacekeeping, for which the foreign government will ask for or accept the offers of Canadian military assistance? Then is such a number high enough to warrant the expenditure of funds, or is there a cheaper way to provide the same assistance? Canadians wanting the CF to do more disaster relief and peacekeeping is irrelevant without the "receiving" nation giving permission.

My gut feeling is that it is a very small number, bordering on zero.
Oldgateboatdriver said:
So, emergency stocks are kept in store as long as a class of ships is in service.

This being Canada, we still have spares for the St Laurent class in storage...

Not a Sig Op said:
For that matter, is it even the flavour of the day? Has anyone other than CASR even suggested it?
It's not even a CASR suggestion, but rather one of their 'contributors.'  Looking at his "expertise," I'd be hesitant to give a lot of credence to his suggestion; as noted, in less than one page of responses here, people with actual experience in political, naval, technical, etc  issues have pretty much dismissed the idea.

I'd suggest that claiming strategic expertise requires more than "CD" after your name (even with additional Commissionaires G4S' security guard experience).* 

* Yes, I Googled his Linkedin profile   ;)
dapaterson said:
This being Canada, we still have spares for the St Laurent class in storage...

But surely, that's in case one of the St-laurent artificial reef starts to drag on the ocean floor and needs extra anchors ...  ;D
Wow! Don't  storesmen know the value of brass on the secondary market? It's not like anyone will come looking for one, just sayin'  ...  :temptation: :whistle: